Accidentally I came across the Nutrition Facts of sparkling water online and instantly was reminded of the Nutrition Facts of regular water both of which possess ‘0’ calories! Then why is there so much controversy, hype and opposition surrounding the consumption of a zero-calorie drink which is as normal as regular water? People comment on bone density, tooth enamel erosion and its not-so-hydrating effect on humans. I wonder how a zero-calorie and zero-sugar drink can spark up so much opposition and contradictory opinions.
Carbonated water is one that has been infused with carbon dioxide gas under pressure and popularly sold as sparkling water, club soda, soda water, seltzer water or fizzy water. Posh restaurants, cafes and even theatres sell natural sparkling mineral water which comes in a chic bottle, looks sparkling, clean, inviting and great to drink although the cost too is pretty much on the higher side. Standing by its name, these waters are fetched naturally from a mineral spring and tend to contain minerals and sulfur compounds along being carbonated as well.
Various myths surround the advantages and disadvantages of sparkling water which have no boundaries. Sadly, not much research exists on these controversies but there are studies that show by and large that sparkling water is as hydrating as regular water. If you think on simple lines, it does make sense. After all, carbonated water is just regular water infused with carbon gas.
Effects on the Stomach
‘Gulping down carbonated water affects your stomach’ is a historic myth but actually the reverse is true! It relieves constipation symptoms and there is a study proving this. In a 2-week study of 40 elderly people who were diagnosed with stroke, the group of people who drank carbonated water experienced nearly doubled average bowel movement compared to the other group that drank tap water. Also, the participants experienced a 58% decrease in symptoms. Evidences also exist that sparkling water may improve other symptoms of indigestion such as stomach pain.
While overconsumption of sparkling water might make a person feel bloated, even this side effect has been converted into an advantage! Researchers in Japan requested a group of women to fast overnight and then slowly drink either still or sparkling water. Once done, they found that 900ml of gas was released just by drinking 250 ml of water. This made the women feel full even without having eaten anything or feeling uncomfortable. But this was a study made on a small group and we need further studies to confirm this.
It is a well-known fact that carbonated water has higher acid content, but this cannot be the reason for detrimental bone health as suggested by people. A huge study of more than 2,500 people found that cola was the only beverage linked with significantly lower bone mineral density and carbonated water had no effects on bone health. Cola drinks contain ample phosphorus without much calcium which can contribute to bone loss. Yet another study found that teenage girls who consumed carbonated drinks were lacking bone mineral density. When probed into the problem, it was noticed that these girls replaced milk with these beverages resulting in inadequate calcium consumption and affected bone health.
Another study found that women (only women and the effect is null on men) who drank cola-flavored fizzy drinks thrice a week had hip bones with a lower average bone mineral density. Though other carbonated drinks had no effect, the discouraging result could be attributed to caffeine and the action of phosphoric acid (though not present in sparkling water). Maybe there is something that blocks the absorption of calcium! Only further research can provide answers to these questions.
All these show that drinking carbonated cola drinks might affect bone density/health, but the effects of plain sparkling water are either null or positive.
Many people constantly talk about the effects of carbonated water on tooth enamel owing to its direct exposure to acid. There is scarce evidence on this and one study found that sparkling mineral water damaged enamel only slightly more than still water. At the same time, it is 100 times less damaging that a sugary soft drink. Most studies reveal that only when the carbonated drink is combined with sugar, will it result in tooth decay or enamel loss. If you are not convinced still, try drinking sparkling water with your meal or drink some plain water immediately after drinking sparkling water.
Tug of War-Carbonated Vs Normal Water
Drinking water, at least eight glasses daily, is mandatory for good health. It seems to be much of a strenuous task than decoding a scripting bug for some of you, but the good news is that you need not drink all the required water in liquid form. Almost 20% of our water intake comes from solid foods such as fruits and veggies. Attack some juicy watermelons, cantaloupes or sweet lime and quench your thirst! ‘Eat your water’ is an interesting way to meet some of your water requirements through the foods we eat. Learn new ways and know different foods rich in water content by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
Another interesting and positive fact is that, sparkling water (even the flavored ones) is as hydrating as normal water and also serves as the best answer to your taste fatigue. Gas in our body is excreted via a solution in the stomach. A much higher quantity of carbonated water present in the stomach might accelerate the process of how quickly the beverage is emptied from the stomach, absorbed in the small intestine and excreted from the body.
Ingredients in plain water and carbonated water remain the same and theoretically, both are equally hydrating. The difference is that, the bubbles/flavor in carbonated water help some people drink more while some others feel full/bloated and consume less. This takes us to an important issue-effect of sparkling water on athletes. It is always recommended to drink normal water during exercise as carbonation might cause bloating during physical activity and restrict an athlete from consuming enough water. Likewise, normal water is better for patients recovering from gastrointestinal surgery and for those patients who feel full quickly than normal.
After analyzing and going through the various myths surrounding the consumption of carbonated water, we understand that it is a calorie-free beverage that is as simple as H2O until it is corrupted with sugar, salt or extra ingredients. There is no harm in enjoying this bubbly beverage that is calorie-free and in fact, assists in improving overall health without any guilt or doubt!
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.
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