Is Your Water Wrecking Your Waistline?
For the first time in history, bottled water sales have surpassed soda sales, with water consumption reaching 39.3 gallons in 2016, compared to 38.5 gallons in soda consumption.1
A significant reason for the increase in water consumption is thanks to the surge of sparkling water on the market. In fact, carbonated water sales topped at $797 million in 2015, and are expected to climb to $1.1 billion (with a B!) in 2020.2
More water, less soda—America is finally on the right track! Not so fast. Turns out, sparkling water may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The Dangers Bubbling Under the Surface
There is no question that drinking water is great for your health. It’s been connected to healthy weight, great skin, increased immunity, improved digestion, and even migraine relief. But sparkling water? That seems to be a horse of another color.
The issue with sparkling water has to do with the carbonation that gives it its characteristic fizz. The process is actually quite simple. You take plain old water and add carbon dioxide and, presto, you have carbonated water.
Carbonated water goes by many names. When it’s just plain old carbonated water, it’s called seltzer. When you add in sodium, you have club soda. Add in flavoring (sugary or sugar-free), and you have sparkling water. The only exception is mineral water, which tends to be plain old water with naturally occurring minerals.
But putting the sugar and artificial flavors and colors aside, the carbonation itself has been shown to be problematic in three main areas of health: digestion, dental health, and weight.
On the digestive side, carbonated water has been associated with gas and bloating. As the carbonation hits the stomach, the bubbles can cause a build up of air. That excess air can result in gas (in the form of flatulence and/or burping) as well as abdominal bloat.
Additionally, carbonated drinks have been linked to increased risk of GERD and acid reflux. One study found that people who had been treated for GERD often had a relapse in symptoms after consuming carbonated beverages.3 In fact, the carbonation was responsible for more relapses than heavy coffee consumption, chocolate, smoking, obesity or being overweight, and even spicy food.
The issue with dental health is a matter of pH levels. Long story short, carbonated water can tend to be acidic, likely due to the addition of carbon dioxide. Plain flat water registers about a 7.0 on the pH scale. It’s neutral. However, some carbonated waters can drop as far down the acidic side of the scale as 5.5 (Perrier for example). And the news is even worse when you look at flavored sparkling water, whose pH levels can drop as low as 2.75, just 0.25 away from Coca-Cola!4
This is bad news for your teeth, as it can lead to enamel erosion.5 As you lose enamel, you increase your risk for tooth decay, and tooth decay has been linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.6-11
Finally, if you think that switching the cola for carbonated water is a great diet move, you might need to rethink your drink. Turns out, even unflavored carbonated water can boost your appetite by increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin.12
When ghrelin is elevated, so is your hunger and your cues to eat more calories. This, naturally, can lead to weight gain.
Choose Your Water Wisely
All of this is not to be a Debbie Downer when it comes to water. It’s more of a wake up call if you’ve been guzzling the fizz. Like most things, it’s a matter of moderation.
First and foremost, know the pH of your water of choice. Look for one that registers as close to 7.0 (if not higher) as possible. This will help to support your enamel and dental health.
Next, limit your consumption to no more than one or two fizzies a day. This will reduce your risk of digestive upset and won’t have a large impact on your ghrelin levels.
Finally, avoid the flavored waters. They often contain added citric acid and/or sodium, which can add a whole new set of health issues. If you are looking for a flavor boost, try adding frozen fruit instead of ice cubes, adding slices of oranges or even cucumber, or give flavored stevia a try.
In fact, that’s good advice for plain old filtered water as well.
3. Lopez-Colombo A, et al. Risk factors associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease relapse in primary care patients successfully treated with a proton pump inhibitor. Rev Gastroenterol Mex. 2017 Apr-Jun;82(2):106-14.
4. Brown CJ, et al. The erosive potential of flavoured sparkling water drinks. Int J Paediatr Dent. 2007 Mar;17(2):86-91.
5. Kontaxopoulou I and Alam S. Risk assessment for tooth wear. Prim Dent J. 2015 Aug;4(3):25-9.
6. Willershausen B, et al. Association between chronic dental infection and acute myocardial infarction. J Endod. 2009 May;35(5):626-30.
7. Sfyroeras GS, et al. Association between periodontal disease and stroke. J Vasc Surg. 2012 Apr;55(4):1178-84.
8. Stewart R, et al. Adverse oral health and cognitive decline: the health, aging and body composition study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2013 Feb;6(2):177-84.
9. Kamer AR, et al. Periodontal disease associates with higher brain amyloid load in normal elderly. Neurobiol Aging. 2015 Feb;36(2):627-33.
10. Noble JM, et al. Serum IgG antibody levels to periodontal microbiota are associated with incident Alzheimer disease. PLoS One. 2014 Dec 18;9(12):e114959.
11. Preshaw PM, et al. Periodontitis and diabetes: a two-way relationship. Diabetologia. 2012 Jan;55(1):21-31.
12. Eweis DS, et al. Carbon dioxide in carbonated beverages induces ghrelin release and increased food consumption in male rats: Implications on the onset of obesity. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2017 Sep-Oct;11(5):534-43.
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