Does sparkling water have a downside?
Are there any health drawbacks related to drinking a lot of sparkling water or soda water?
The lack of sugar, kilojoules, added colours and artificial flavours in plain soda water, or sparkling water, and its relatively low acidity make it a generally healthy choice compared with most soft drinks, juices and sports drinks. But check the label to avoid added sweeteners, sodium or other additives.
Soda water is water that has had pressurised carbon dioxide added to give it bubbles. Sparkling water is the umbrella term for carbonated water, including naturally carbonated mineral water and artificially carbonated soda water and club soda. Studies have not shown ill health effects from drinking soda water or other plain sparkling waters.
A 2006 study found an association between drinking colas and low bone mineral density. But the link was not seen in those who drank other carbonated beverages.
Colas, with their low pH (a measure of acidity), also have the potential to erode tooth enamel. But a study published earlier this year in The Journal of the American Dental Association found that the pH of plain sparkling water, about 5.0, is not low enough to erode enamel.
Carbonation does not, in itself, lead to dental erosion, said Dr John Ruby, an adjunct professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who is a co-author of the paper. “It’s when they add citric acid or phosphoric acid that’s in your classic soft drinks that the pH can drop below the critical pH of 4, where you then can have dental erosion as an outcome. For example, Coca-Cola has a pH of about 2.4,” making it potentially over 100 times more erosive than sparkling water (because pH is on a logarithmic scale).
Bottled soda waters that have been flavoured with citric acid, which is found naturally in citrus fruits like lemons and limes, may be acidic enough to damage enamel. But you can get flavour in a less acidic form by adding a slice of lemon or lime (or other fruits, vegetables or herbs, like cucumber, mint or basil) to plain sparkling water.
According to a spokesman from the American Dental Association, the greatest potential drawback of consuming bottled sparkling water is missing out on the benefit of fluoride when you drink it instead of fluoridated tap water. In-home sparkling water makers like SodaStream have gained popularity in recent years because they save money and have environmental benefits, but an additional advantage of making your own sparkling water from the tap may be the fluoride, which the ADA emphasises as essential for maintaining long-term oral health.
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