Carbonated water is a refreshing beverage for lots of people and has been gaining more and more popularity as a healthy alternative to sugary soft drinks. Yet there are people that question if carbonated water (also called seltzer water, sparkling water) is good or bad for your health. Let’s take a deeper look into it and see if we can answer that.
What Is Carbonated Water?
Carbonated water is water that has been infused with CARBON DIOXIDE. Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas made of carbon and oxygen (1 part carbon, 2 parts oxygen, therefore the symbol is CO2). This video explains it simply, for those who are interested.
Without getting too complicated, carbon is one of the most important building blocks on earth. When fused with oxygen to form CO2, it produces bubbles in the water, making it fizzy.
When you go to the grocery store, you’ll find a variety of "bubbly" water brands being sold as “sparkling water”, “soda water”, “club soda”, “seltzer”, “seltzer water”. All of these are simply different types of waters that fit under the umbrella term “carbonated water”.
History of Carbonated Water
Carbonated water has been around for over 250 years. Its origin traces back to the carbonated mineral waters from natural springs, which people used to refer to as “seltzers” back in the day, after the carbonated natural springs in Niederselters, Germany.
Bathing in carbonated mineral water was believed to have healthy effects, which is why people eventually tried drinking it in hopes of getting the same results. With the goal of replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters, an English scientist named Joseph Priestley created the first artificially carbonated water back in 1767. Priestley believed that sparkling water could help address numerous ailments, including scurvy, a deadly disease caused by vitamin C deficiency that claimed millions of lives from the 1500s to the 1800s. Although it did not turn out to be the medical revolution he hoped for, carbonated water did open the gates to “The Age of Soda” and here we are today.
The Different Types of Carbonated Water
The names get tossed around loosely, but there are distinct differences between the different types of carbonated waters.
Seltzer Water (or Sparkling Water)
Seltzer water is just plain water that has been carbonated by injecting CO2. It contains no sodium salts. It was first introduced as a cheap alternative to sparkling mineral water—and is still an economical option today. Flavor: Plain sparkling water has a very clean taste. But watch out... this is the most common variety of carbonated water to be flavored with added ingredients, and then it's not so "plain" anymore. It’s important to check the label.
Sparkling Mineral Water
This water comes directly from the source of mineral springs and tends to contain minerals and sulfur compounds. Its effervescence is a result of naturally-occurring gases. But while it is naturally carbonated, some sparkling mineral water companies will still add carbon dioxide artificially to produce even more bubbles.
Flavor: Due to the minerals and sodium, sparkling mineral water has a slight mineral taste that can vary depending on where the water came from. (Because of its taste, it is not commonly used in cocktails.)
There are hundreds of different regional waters available on the international market, each with its own distinct mineral profile. In order to be labeled “mineral water,” the water must contain at least 250 parts per million (ppm) naturally occurring dissolved mineral solids.
S. Pellegrino (sourced in Italy)
San Pellegrino’s natural mineral water flows from natural springs in the San Pellegrino Terme area, at the foothills of the Italian Alps near Bergamo (Lombardy).
In the process, the water becomes naturally enriched with mineral salts, calcium and magnesium. And with the addition of carbon dioxide, S.Pellegrino water acquires its bubbles, acidity, and a slightly bitter note.
Their 2019 Analysis Report lists results for over 175 substances contained in their sparkling water, from A to Z (aluminum to zinc). Perrier (sourced in France) Since 1863, Perrier’s natural spring water has come from a unique underground source called Perrier, located in Vergeze in the south of France. The water is extracted and then carbonated to provide sparkling water.
Their 2019 Analysis Report lists the substances contained in their sparkling water.
Club Soda (or Soda Water)
Club soda is very similar to seltzer water (it is carbonated), but there is a notable difference between the two. Mineral-like ingredients are added to club soda to enhance the flavor, such as sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, potassium sulfate and disodium phosphate.
Tip: For anyone trying to reduce their sodium levels, realize that club soda contains sodium. The better option is to drink seltzer water or sparkling water which tends to be sodium-free. As always, check the label!
Flavor: Slightly mineral-like taste, but still a relatively clean taste.
Unlike the other carbonated waters, tonic water has a distinct flavor and contains calories, about 130 for 12 fluid ounces. It has little nutritional value and contains a bitter compound called quinine. Most commercially-produced tonic waters also contain over twenty grams of sugar. Not just sugar, though, high fructose corn syrup.
FDA Guidelines for Carbonated Waters
All bottled drinking waters, such as the above, historically are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Exactly what they require from water manufacturers and what they monitor can be seen on their www.fda.gov webpage.
Is Carbonated Water Healthy?
For the most part, YES! But... it depends.
We found no evidence that plain, unflavored, carbonated (sparkling) water is dangerous to your health. If you’ve read somewhere that it erodes teeth enamel and bone density, then read further on as we dig deeper into those findings. But let’s first look at a few of the benefits one gets from drinking it.
RELIEF FOR INDIGESTION AND CONSTIPATION: Carbonated water was found helpful to patients with a central neurological disease like Parkison’s disease or a brain injury, such as a stroke.
Another study looked at the effects of carbonated beverages on 21 patients with indigestion issues and found that carbonated water improved their symptoms as well as constipation and gallbladder emptying.
RELIEF FOR MOTION SICKNESS: When experiencing an uneasy stomach, or even vomiting—caused by motion via ship, plane, train, bus, or automobile—plain carbonated water (without caffeine) can help reduce the queasiness.
RELIEVES CHRONIC THROAT CLEARING: We discovered an interesting study where 72 patients with a “chronic throat clearing issue” were advised to add ice-cold carbonated water to their regime in order to relieve their symptom. Results show that 63% of the patients experienced relief, with the most severe and frequently affected patients having the highest improvement in their symptoms.
If that's not enough...there's more!
Added Benefits from Sparkling Mineral Water
MINERAL ABSORPTION: The thing about natural sparkling mineral water is that it comes from a natural source and naturally contains minerals. Depending on the source, the type and amount of minerals can vary. What’s great about this is that their minerals are said to be more easily absorbable than the minerals found in your FOOD, since food minerals are attached to complex molecules, while those in mineral water are not. MAGNESIUM, CALCIUM and POTASSIUM are just a few of the vital minerals you can get from drinking sparkling mineral water. (But always verify the ingredients on the label).
BETTER BLOOD SUGAR MANAGEMENT: Mineral water often contains bicarbonate. Bicarbonate is found in the human body and helps to maintain a healthy pH of the blood. A study conducted in 2015 linked consumption of bicarbonate-rich mineral water with improved glycemic control. In other words, compared to tap water, the mineral water caused a significant decline in blood glucose levels.
So... Is There Anything Bad About Carbonated Water?
There are some concerns that carbonated water may cause tooth decay and calcium loss in bones. However, when you look into the studies that have been done, you find that it’s not the plain carbonated or plain sparkling water that causes these side effects, it’s the colas and flavored carbonated drinks that contain added ingredients and sugars that do harm. The Journal of Oral Rehabilitation published a study that found that flavorless sparkling mineral water was 100 times less offensive to tooth enamel compared to the soft drinks tested. Overall, the researchers conclude that the minerals in sparkling mineral water positively affect any erosion taking place at the tooth surface. According to an article from the American Dental Association, sparkling water is generally fine for your teeth—and here's why. In a study using teeth that were removed as a part of treatment and donated for research, researchers tested to see whether sparkling water would attack tooth enamel more aggressively than regular lab water. The result? The two forms of water were about the same in their effects on tooth enamel. This finding suggests that, even though sparkling water is slightly more acidic than ordinary water, it's all just water to your teeth.
According to Harvard Medical School, non-cola carbonated drinks were not associated with low BMD (bone mineral density).
Another publication from Tufts University showed that intake of cola, but not of other carbonated soft drinks, is associated with low bone mineral density (BMD) in women.
In summary, flavored sparkling water is the culprit. It should be considered potentially erosive, as it demonstrated similar or higher erosive potential than pure orange juice, according to 2007 study published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry. Here, the researchers soaked teeth in carbonated water for 30 minutes and found that it started to erode the enamel. So if you plan on doing that with your teeth, or you’re going to drink that much in a day, please don’t! Once again, this study observed flavored (not plain) sparkling water. In another 2016 study, researchers compared the erosive effects of seltzer to soda, coffee, energy drinks, and diet cola and found seltzer to be the least harmful to teeth. So there you have it!
If you haven't figured this out by now: If you don’t want to erode your teeth enamel or lose bone density, avoid flavored carbonated drinks and sodas.
DIY Carbonated Water
Okay. Now let's be honest. If you got this far, you're probably interested in making your own carbonated water at home (Do-It-Yourself) instead of paying exorbitant prices at the grocery store. There's good news for you. It's not that hard.
The easiest way to get started is to purchase a carbonated water maker, like SodaStream. It simply injects your water with carbon dioxide. It costs about $190, and once you set it up, push a button—there you have it—carbonated water at your demand!
OR if you don't want to spend $190, and afterward purchase their proprietary cartridges, here's a real do-it-yourself system. It's easier than you think to build your own carbonation system. It's not only fun to build, but they are much more versatile to operate and maintain. You can utilize standard CO2 tanks of any size that can be refilled locally at a fraction of the cost and are compatible with any plastic bottle that uses a standard bottle cap.
To see a demo of DIY carbonation, watch this 2-minute video:
Sparkling Mineral Water vs Tap Water
Hands down, sparkling mineral water is SAFER than raw, unfiltered tap water: Generally speaking, dangerous toxins in tap water is a real problem. Drinking sparkling mineral water, ideally in glass bottles, is a healthier choice than drinking water straight from the tap. The other solution, of course, is to filter your tap water. The Environmental Working Group provides information on specific contaminants existing in your local water supply. Just go here and enter your zip code.
Our 10 Takeaways:
Not all carbonated (sparkling) waters are equal. Or healthy. Pure, plain carbonated water IS good, as it’s basically plain water infused with carbon dioxide.
Adding carbon dioxide to water adds acidity. As long as you’re not overdoing it, it doesn’t pose a health risk.
Flavored sparkling water, on the other hand, may contain sugar, “natural flavors” and other artificial ingredients that are just not good for you. They will have negative effects on your health. Avoid them!
There isn’t any evidence that carbonated water is bad for your health. If you are more likely to drink water when it is carbonated, we can’t find any reason for you to give it up.
The best variety of sparkling water is the mineral-rich kind, which you now know more about—,. While you hydrate with it, you’re also consuming valuable minerals.
When it comes to plain sparkling water, seltzer water, or soda water, these aren’t as ideal as the mineral kind.
The kind of carbonated, sparkling water you absolutely want to stay away from is one that contains artificial flavors, “natural flavors”, colors, or additives. (Have we said that enough yet?)
Always check the label for what’s inside your water.
Carbonated water may irritate sensitive bladders. So if you have an overactive bladder, also called urinary "urge incontinence," limit how much you take in.
If you consume a lot of sparkling water in a single sitting, the bubbles in it may cause bloating as they dissolve inside your stomach, making your belly feel full, tight, and uncomfortable.