Recently, the Internet has propagated several rumors regarding seltzer water’s carbonation and the potential damage it could cause to your health. Many diet enforcing individuals turn to carbonated water, like seltzer, to substitute for sugary drinks or carbonated sodas. But is seltzer water actually a healthy alternative? There has been speculation regarding carbonated beverages and its association with erosion of tooth enamel, calcium excretion from bones, and the onset of irritable bowel syndrome.
What is Seltzer Water?
To clear any confusion, seltzer water is defined as plain tap water with artificially added carbon dioxide. Seltzer water also goes by the name of sparkling water. Some seltzer waters contain flavoring ingredients or added sodium to reduce the acidic taste of the carbonation. The flavored varieties contain natural extracts without adding carbohydrates or calories.
No research currently exists that suggests carbonated water beverages flush toxins from your body less efficiently than plain water.
Research has investigated carbonation and its subsequent impact on erosion of tooth enamel. The University of Birmingham in Alabama released a study in 2001 that investigated mineral water and soda drinks and their relation to dental enamel erosion. Sparkling waters showed very low levels of dissolution of enamel, but slightly higher levels than plain mineral water. This negligible value of enamel erosion proves that seltzer and sparkling waters are not really harmful to tooth enamel. The study suggested that these types of waters represent alternatives to more erosive acidic drinks like soda.
One of the most common myths about carbonated water is that it is associated with excretion of calcium from the bones, leading to osteoporosis. A Tufts University study, which took place in Massachusetts in 2006, suggested that colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are correlated with low bone mineral density in older women. This study suggests that seltzer water does not have an impact on bone mineral density.
In a 2012 clinical review of irritable bowel syndrome completed at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in Louisiana, certain foods and beverages were cited that have shown to have an impact on the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It was discussed that patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome may associate the condition with ingestions of certain beverages containing caffeine, alcohol, and carbonation. If you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, it is advised to avoid carbonated beverages, as the release of carbon dioxide can aggravate bowels and cause bloating and gas.
Despite the negative health concerns, there are several benefits of sparkling water that you might not be aware of. A Japanese study at the University of Hyogo in 2012 evaluated the effects of carbonated water on gastric and cardiac activities, as well as fullness in healthy young women. Ingestion of carbonated water showed significant increases in fullness ratings and heart rate. It was identified that the increased heart rate was a substantial variable contributing to feelings of fullness. The overall data implies that carbonated water, like seltzer, may cause a short-term and substantial satiating effect by its enhancement to gastric and cardiac activities.
An Italian Study in 2002 observed the effects of carbonated beverages on its effects on the gastrointestinal tract in patients with indigestion and constipation. The results showed that these patients saw improvements in dyspepsia (indigestion), constipation, and gastric emptying. This study indicated a role for carbonated drinks in relieving gastrointestinal ailments.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests incorporating seltzer water with natural lemon flavor or with a dash of 100% fruit juice when switching to healthier beverages. Adding a slight flavor to the seltzer water will help make the transition from carbonated sodas easier.
Some bottled carbonated waters contain added sodium to lessen the acidity and improve taste. If you are on a low sodium diet, pay attention to the label that mentions any sodium content, and choose seltzer waters with no sodium added.
When the myths that give carbonated water a bad reputation are debunked and eliminated, it is clear to see that seltzer water provides the same effects, and even a few more, than plain water. These findings suggest seltzer water as a healthy beverage, especially as an alternative to soda or sugary drinks. Challenge yourself to make a simple change by replacing soda with seltzer water or flavored carbonated water during a meal. It is not only essential, clean hydration that your body needs, but it can also help with any gastrointestinal ailments that you may already be dealing with.
Drink to Your Health? [Internet]. The Regents of The University of California; 2005 [cited 2015 Jan 22]. Available: http://www.snac.ucla.edu/documents/DrinkToYourHealth.pdf
Seltzer Water [Internet]. New Health Guide [cited 2015 Jan 22]. Available from: http://www.newhealthguide.org/Seltzer-Water-Health.html
Rethink Your Drink [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [updated 2011 Aug 17]. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html
Parry J, Shaw L, Arnaud MJ, Smith AJ. Investigation of mineral waters and soft drinks in relation to dental erosion. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation. 2011;28:766-772.
Tucker KL, Morita K, Qiao N, Hannan MT, Cupples LA, Kiel DP. Colas, but not other carbonated beverages, are associated with low bone mineral density in older women: The Framingham Osteoporosis Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;84(4):936-42.
Occhipinti K, Smith JW. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Review and Update. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2012;25(1):46-52.
Wakisaka S, Nagai H, Mura E, Matsumoto T, Moritani T, Nagai N. The effects of carbonated water upon gastric and cardiac activities and fullness in healthy young women. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2012;58(5):333-8.
Cuomo R, Grasso R, Sarnelli G, Capuano G, Nicolai E, Nardone G, Pomponi D, Budillon G, Lerardi E. Effects of carbonated water on functional dyspepsia and constipation. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2002;14(9):991-9.
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Stookey, J. D., Constant, F., Popkin, B. M., & Gardner, C. D. (2008). Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Obesity, 16(11), 2481-2488.
Cuomo, R., Grasso, R., Sarnelli, G., Capuano, G., Nicolai, E., Nardone, G., ... & Ierardi, E. (2002). Effects of carbonated water on functional dyspepsia and constipation. European journal of gastroenterology & hepatology, 14(9), 991-999.
Pouderoux, P., Friedman, N., Shirazi, P., Ringelstein, J. G., & Keshavarzian, A. (1997). Effect of carbonated water on gastric emptying and intragastric meal distribution. Digestive diseases and sciences, 42(1), 34-39.
Schoppen, S., Pérez-Granados, A. M., Carbajal, A., de la Piedra, C., & Vaquero, M. P. (2005). Bone remodelling is not affected by consumption of a sodium-rich carbonated mineral water in healthy postmenopausal women. British journal of nutrition, 93(03), 339-344.