By Terrie Jorgenson, RD, LD
Sparkling waters and carbonated waters are a great way to experience all the bubbles and fizz of drinking a soda with none of the sugar. You can find sparkling water in many different flavors so they can be a great way to mix things up while reaching your water intake goals throughout the day, but what do we really know about their safety?
What is Carbonated Water?
Carbonated water is water containing carbon dioxide gas (CO2) through pressure injection or can be naturally occurring from a mineral spring. Seltzer water is the most basic form of carbonated water containing only plain water and CO2, whereas most other carbonated beverages contain salt. Since not all carbonated beverages are created equal, below is a list of carbonated beverages and their contents:
Seltzer water – Plain water with added CO2. It is naturally sodium-free but may have natural flavorings added. Popular brands include LaCroix, Bubly, Polar, Spindrift, and Klarbrunn.
Sparkling mineral water – Water from a natural underground source. It naturally contains minerals such as sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Popular brands include S. Pellegrino and Perrier.
Club soda – Plain water with added CO2 and minerals for flavoring.
Tonic water– Plain water with added CO2, quinine (bitter compound), citric acid, sodium benzoate (preservative) natural flavors and sugar (1).
Most carbonated beverages, other than tonic water, are calorie-free and sugar-free. However, new products are always coming on the market and some contain added fruit juice, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine; hence it is the important to read their labels.
Is there any cause for safety concerns?
When considering safety, carbonated beverages pose no real health concerns but have been scrutinized by some to pose dental concerns. There has been some concern that carbonated water can cause enamel erosion due to its acidity. Plain water has a neutral potential hydrogen (pH) of 7 on a pH scale of 0 to 14 with 0 being most acidic and 14 being the most basic. Enamel erosion does not occur above a pH of 4 and sparkling water has a pH between 3-4, thus does pose a slight risk of enamel erosion; however, no long-term studies have been done (2). Additionally, pH is affected by the addition of citric acid – natural flavorings which might increase acidity – while minerals, saliva, and the presence of food in the mouth can decrease acidity. When comparing carbonated water to Coca-Cola (pH 2.4), which is highly acidic and sugary, carbonated water is by far a better choice. If you do have enamel concerns, you could take extra caution by drinking it with meals versus sipping it slowly throughout the day.
In addition to carbonated water being a low-calorie alternative to soda which potentially aids in increased water consumption, drinking carbonated water has the possible health benefit of increased gastric distention which helps you stay fuller, longer (3)!
So, whether you are looking to kick soda consumption, add flavor and variety to your beverage consumption, or increase the feelings of fullness, you can rest easy knowing that carbonated beverages pose no real threats to your health.
- “Tonic water.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tonic%20water. Accessed 4 December 2019.
- Dow, C. (2018, July 31). Is your seltzer habit harming your teeth? Retrieved December 4, 2019, from https://cspinet.org/tip/your-seltzer-habit-harming-your-teeth.
- Pouderoux, P., Friedman, N., Shirazi, P. et al. Dig Dis Sci (1997) 42: 34. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018820718313