Three Myths About Sparkling Water, Debunked

Three Myths About Sparkling Water, Debunked

Australians spend millions of dollars per year on sparkling water, but there are a few common myths about the bubbly beverage that don't quite add up. Some say it's bad for your bones, erodes your teeth, and that it might even dehydrate you. If you're worried your favourite fizzy drink is actually unhealthy, here's the mouth-tingling truth. Illustration by Sam Woolley.

Sparkling Water Doesn't Leach Calcium From Your Bones

Neither sparkling water or the carbonation found in many beverages makes your bones weaker. Nobody seems to know where this myth got started, but somewhere along the line people started to believe that carbonation could leach calcium from your bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis. There's no evidence that supports that theory, but there is some evidence that it's other ingredients in cola soft drinks specifically. According to one study, led by Douglas Kiel, MD, at Harvard Medical School, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, cola soft drinks were associated with low bone mineral density in older women, but not other carbonated beverages (including sparkling water). The men in the study experienced no changes.

Another study, led by Robert Heaney, MD, at the Creighton University School of Medicine, and also published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, seems to suggest the same thing: carbonation is not the prime suspect when it comes to calcium being leached from bones. The researchers suggest that the problem may actually lie with caffeine and phosphoric acid found in colas -- neither of which are found in sparkling water. Your beautiful bone structure is safe from all those bubbles.

Sparkling Water Doesn't Dehydrate You

This myth is a real head-scratcher, but sparkling water does not dehydrate you. Not only is there zero evidence that sparkling water dehydrates you (why would it exactly?), it actually does the exact opposite (surprise!). According to Sarah Bleich, PhD and associate professor in health policy at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, drinking sparkling water is just as hydrating as drinking regular water. The only small catch: you may drink less water per sitting because the carbonation in sparkling water makes it more filling, and that may potentially lower your overall intake of water. So it's OK to have a glass of sparkling water when you're thirsty, just keep in mind that you may need to drink more of it to actually quench your thirst.

That feeling of being full will come in handy, however, if you're looking to lose weight and avoid overeating. A glass of sparkling water with your meal (or right before it) may help you feel full and satisfied faster so you eat less. Not to mention you get a refreshing beverage without adding any extra sugar or calories to your meal.

Sparkling Water Can Damage Your Teeth, But It's Not That Bad

Sparkling water can erode your tooth enamel, but it's not quite as bad as it sounds. The main suspect here is actually a byproduct of the carbonation process itself. To turn boring water into fashionable fizzy water, carbon dioxide gas is forced to dissolve into said water using low temperatures and high pressure. This process creates carbonic acid (dun dun dunnnn), giving most sparkling water an acidity level lower on the pH scale than normal tap water.

They aren't nearly as acidic or corrosive as soft drink, but some flavoured sparkling waters have acidity levels on par with fruit juice. A study led by researcher Catriona Brown at the University of Birmingham, and published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, suggests that a large portion of flavoured sparkling waters have the same corrosive effect on teeth as orange juice (which is known to soften tooth enamel). In their tests, lemon, lime and grapefruit were the most corrosive flavours because they use citric acid for taste in addition to the carbonic acid that is already present.

A different study, however, published in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation, found that plain mineral water and most flavourless sparkling water do very little damage to teeth. So yes, sparkling water can have an effect on your teeth, but in the worst case scenario, it's no more damaging than fruit juice (minus the sugar which make things worse). As Damien Walmsley, a professor of dentistry at the University of Birmingham, explains to The Atlantic sparkling water presents a theoretical risk of tooth erosion, but the drinks would need to be consumed over a long period of time to have any major effect. Essentially, tooth erosion happens in a controlled lab environment, yes, but under real world conditions it's unlikely you'd drink enough to do any real damage. If you take care of your teeth properly, you don't have much to worry about.

Rules to Remember While You Enjoy Sparkling Water

Sparkling water is perfectly safe to drink on a regular basis as long as you stick to a few basic rules:

  • Don't drink sparkling water (or any other carbonated beverages) if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The carbonation might exacerbate your symptoms and cause severe, uncomfortable bloating.
  • Read the nutrition label and avoid sparkling water with any added sugar or artificial sweeteners, recommends Despina Hyde, a Registered Dietitian at NYU Langone Medical Center. Sparkling beverages like tonic water and some flavoured sparkling water options will have extra hidden ingredients, even if they claim to have no kilojoules, so keep your eyes peeled.
  • Avoid drinking too much sparkling water with high amounts of citric acid added for flavouring if you can help it. Remember, citrus flavoured sparkling waters tend to be the most acidic.
  • Save your more acidic sparkling water for mealtimes and drink regular water (or plain sparkling water) in between, says Damien Walmsley, the professor of dentistry at the University of Birmingham.

The bottom line is that plain ol' water will always be a guaranteed safe bet (as long as it's clean). That said, sparkling water is a good alternative to soft drink and other sugary beverages. It's fine to drink whenever you're thirsty, as long as it's not the only thing you drink for the rest of your life.


Comments

    I just don't understand how paying so much for what is essentially Tap Water, got so far out of hand. The prices people are paying, is just mental and yes I know that Carbonated water has gas added to it, but this is water people are paying through the nose for, it isn't pure spring water from the subterranean stream in some exotic nordic land, it's filtered tap water.

    Last edited 17/02/16 10:05 am

      I buy it from Woolies for 75c for a 1.25L bottle. To me, that seems pretty reasonable?

      We buy the homebrand/no name bottles from Woolies for like 80c each, and even then, that's only when the gas cylinder in our Sodastream has run out...

        @april @morkai/Darth Mork
        It is your choice to use this stuff, but my point is that you are essentially paying for "Tap Water", it's free and the same stuff. As for the price, it's actually comparable to soft drink in the big retailers, which means it's not as cheap as you think for "Tap Water". Anyway, it's not my intention to troll this out, so I'll stop with this here.

        Last edited 17/02/16 10:04 am

        Soda water is the best thirst quencher and palate cleanser, the slight acidity cuts through the fat and bubbles lower surface tension of water to cleanse the palate better than tap water.
        I've gone through about 30x60L soda stream canisters in my Soda Stream penguin (uses glass bottles) in the last couple of years, not once have I added syrup flavouring. I've given up on lugging heavy bottles from the supermarket and to the recycling bin, seems like an incredible waste of energy to me. I've toyed with the idea of modding paintball CO2 canisters to reduce the $20 per cartridge onging cost but I'm happy with the approx. 50c/L cost without the extra trips to the supermarket.

        You can neutralise the acidity of 'Soda water' by adding certain types of salts to turn it into 'Mineral water' , I've tested the Ph level of my Sodastream soda made from filtered tap water and couldn't measure any difference in acidity levels. Adding salt to water to neutralise acidity probably has worse health applications than the slightly raised acidity.

        P.S. 34 and no cavities.

      As the article is on carbonated waters, are you griping about people spending their money on soda water or on imported mineral waters? For the soda water, sure, then one is as good as another, after all it's just filtered tap water with carbonation.

      BUT if you are griping about mineral water then one can only assume you come from Adelaide or have destroyed your taste buds with alcohol. There is a huge variation in tastes between different mineral waters to a discerning palate.

      Home brand (which is likely tap water with trace minerals added) or what you get from Schweppes or Hepburn Springs tastes like crud compared to some of the better Italian waters. Even among the Italian waters some taste bitter and metalic while others taste chalky.

      For mineral waters you are not buying filtered tap water.

    It's a few cents cheaper than that at Aldi. Normal water is fine but sparkling is great on a hot day as a soft drink alternative or mixed with scotch at the end of a hard day's toil.

    Cola and caffeinated beverages do appear to cause bone problems:
    http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2000/06.15/soda.html
    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/4/936.full
    but straight sparkling water doesn't, as mentioned in the article.

    I like fizzy water, but not flavoured soft drinks. I think the cheapest ones taste the same as the expensive ones.

    I bought a Soda Stream years ago and drink soda water, sorry, Sparkling Water TM, at home daily. The only expense is to refill the gas bottles and I'm not adding to landfill as I reuse the same bottle to drink from.

Join the discussion!