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Is Carbonated Water Healthy to Drink?

Craig Leonard March 13, 2016
Is Carbonated Water Healthy for You - Health and Fitness Blog

After seeing some of her coworkers regularly drinking club soda (i.e. carbonated water) my wife texted me to ask if it’s a healthy thing to be drinking. If you’ve ever wondered the same thing, you can thank my incredible wife for what you’re about to read.

We’re going to examine how carbonated water is made, the various forms in which it’s sold, what ingredients it contains, and how those ingredients may or may not adversely affect our health.

Carbonated water is nothing more than water that’s been infused with carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. This gives the water the same fizzing characteristic that soda has.

Carbonated water drinks can be found in a few different forms:

Club Soda

Club soda contains a small amount of added minerals, such as potassium bicarbonate or potassium sulfate, which add a subtle flavor, as well as some sodium. Club soda contains zero calories and the sodium content is around 75 mg per 12-ounce serving.

Seltzer Water (A.K.A. Sparkling Water)

Seltzer water can be accurately described as club soda without minerals added to it. It’s truly nothing more than carbonated water. Like club soda, pure seltzer water also contains zero calories. However, seltzer water can come in flavored versions that may contain added sugars and/or artificial sweeteners. These flavored versions of seltzer water are best to be avoided unless you’re certain they contain no dangerous ingredients.

LaCroix offers a number of naturally flavored, zero-calorie carbonated waters. These are a great option that I have personally used and recommend.

If you’re worried about the added sodium in club soda, a sodium-free seltzer water is the carbonated water option for you.

Tonic Water

Tonic water is carbonated water that contains quinine. Quinine is used in the treatment of malaria and tonic water used to contain a high enough concentration of quinine that it would be given to those suffering from malaria to ease their symptoms.

The concentration of quinine in today’s tonic waters has been drastically reduced, but a small residual amount still remains to give tonic water its distinct flavor.

Quinine has a somewhat bitter flavor, which is what makes tonic water a preferred mixer for gin drinkers, because gin also has a bitter flavor.

Unlike club soda and regular seltzer water, tonic water does contain calories from added sugar that’s typically of the high fructose corn syrup variety. Tonic water contains around 125 calories per 12-ounce portion, with nearly all of the calories coming from sugar.

There are zero-calorie diet versions of tonic water, but you want to avoid them due to the synthetic sweetening agents added for flavor (usually aspartame and/or saccharin).

Tonic water is one form of carbonated water you’ll want to keep out of your body, except on rare occasions, due to the calories and ingredients it contains that are known to be harmful to human health.

But what about club soda?

Since club soda and non-flavored seltzer water are essentially the same thing (i.e. carbonated water), I’ll be using these terms interchangeably for the rest of this posting to describe either of these carbonated water options.

Just knowing that club soda is nothing more than water with carbon dioxide added to it (plus a small amount of minerals), it stands to reason that there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about drinking it.

But things aren’t always as they appear and there are some who are skeptical that some of the dangers associated with drinking soda may be linked back to the carbonation, which would then make consuming carbonated water a potential health concern.

Will Carbonated Water Make You Fat?

There’s nothing in carbonated water that would trigger the biological pathways involved with storing body fat. There are no calories, no sugars, and no artificial ingredients.

Drinking too much of any carbonated (i.e. gas-containing) beverage can lead to bloating. It would only be temporary, though, and wouldn’t add to your body’s fat mass; even if you do indeed feel fatter for a few hours after sucking back too much carbonated water.

Also, carbonated water contains salt so it could lead to water retention within the body if a large amount of carbonated water is consumed. Again, though, this is only superficial and temporary. While the number on the scale may cause you to freak, it isn’t body fat and will recede as soon as your salt intake returns to normal.

As mentioned above, you can also opt for a seltzer water option with little or no sodium content to avoid the potential of water retention due to sodium intake.

Either way, there’s no reason to fear carbonated water leading to fat gain (or hindering your ability to lose body fat). The same obviously can’t be said for regular soda and diet soda. They will damage your metabolism, compromise your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, and will absolutely contribute to the accumulation of body fat.

For more on the dangers of soda, see: Stop Drinking Soda and Drinking Diet Soda Increases Chance of Death By 50%.

Does Carbonated Water Cause Calcium Depletion?

There’s still some research to be done to definitively answer this question. However, I did find this study that found carbonated waters do not cause depletion in bone mineral density, even while regular soda and diet soda consumption was shown to decrease it.

If this study is any indication, carbonation isn’t what’s causing the calcium depletion and reduction in bone mineral density that’s been consistently observed among soda and diet soda drinkers.

Therefore, it doesn’t appear that there’s any cause for concern over club soda leading to significant calcium losses and subsequent decrease in bone mineral density.

Does Club Soda Damage Our Teeth?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no dental expert. Fortunately, examining the potential dangers club soda might pose to our dental health isn’t very complicated.

Sugars, phosphoric acid, and citric acid are known to be the main culprits behind the erosion of tooth enamel that occurs when regular soda and diet soda passes through the mouth and over our teeth.

These corrosive acidic elements are absent from club soda.

Still, some of my fellow health and fitness professionals have expressed worry that the carbonic acid that’s formed when water is infused with carbon dioxide to make club soda may be acidic enough to damage tooth enamel. However, the general consensus is that the amount of carbonic acid that’s produced isn’t nearly concentrated enough to harm the teeth.

If you’re worried about keeping your teeth healthy, it’s far more important for you to avoid regular sodas and diet sodas, which are highly acidic. I don’t believe it’s necessary to fret over club soda possibly hurting your teeth. The acidity it contains appears to be negligible in terms of the impact it will have on your dental health.

Conclusion: Drinking Club Soda Is Health Neutral

There’s little evidence to suggest that drinking carbonated water in the form of club soda or unflavored seltzer water is damaging to human health. To be fair, though, there’s nothing inherently healthy about it, either.

I suppose the argument could be made that replacing regular soda or diet soda with club soda would be a health-promoting change. This isn’t saying much, though. Replacing soda with just about anything but battery acid is likely to benefit one’s long-term health.

If drinking club soda increases your daily water intake to better hydrate your body, this could also be viewed as a net positive in terms of overall health. Considering an estimated 75% of Americans suffer from chronic dehydration, it can only be a good thing if drinking carbonated water encourages greater water intake and keeps you hydrated.

Nevertheless, carbonated water doesn’t offer much in the way of enhancing health via nutrition. The minerals club soda contains is certainly better than nothing, but the additional potassium contained in club soda isn’t likely to make much of a difference in the health of normal, already healthy individuals.

While carbonated water isn’t inherently healthy, it’s not going to harm your health in any way, either.

Carbonated water (in the form of club soda or unflavored seltzer water) receives the Craig Leonard Fitness stamp of approval, so feel free to drink it to your heart’s desire.

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