Do you drink too much sparkling water? These are the risks

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Carbonated water is a popular thirst quencher, but we often hear it could be unhealthy. But what is the real truth behind this assumption?

Carbonated water does contain carbon dioxide, but only a small amount. Most of the CO2 is present as a dissolved gas.
Nevertheless, there are concerns about the effects on the body’s acid-base balance, tooth enamel, and even weight.

Severe acidosis in the body can lead to hair loss, brittle nails, and aching joints. Dentists warn that carbonated drinks can lead to erosion in children and teenagers.

Scientists have found that drinking fizzy water can make you fat as it stimulates the production of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin.

Despite this, there is no precise information on how much carbon dioxide is unhealthy, and the amounts in sparkling water are very small.

The difference between mineral and sparkling water
Mineral water is regarded as groundwater with no special properties, a natural product that cannot be produced artificially and may only be labeled as such if it comes from an underground water deposit, is of original purity (i.e., filtered through layers of rock – and its ingredients vary only insignificantly over time. Mineral water can be carbonated, but it does not have to be.

Sparkling water is, by definition, only carbonated drinking water. It is an artificial product. Compared to natural mineral water, it is usually elaborately processed.

How does sparkling water get into the water?
Before we delve into the myths surrounding sparkling water and its effects on the body, let’s first briefly explain how carbon dioxide gets into the drink in the first place. Of course, there is no magic behind it, just simple chemistry. CO₂ is added to the water under pressure so that the carbon dioxide combines with the water particles to form carbonic acid. This process is also known as carbonation.
However, carbon dioxide is already partly present in natural mineral water from the spring. This is also called natural spring carbon dioxide, which comes from deep within the earth. This is because when water seeps through the rocks, it absorbs the carbon dioxide it contains. As much CO₂ is lost, carbon dioxide is added to the water after being pumped.

Myths about carbon dioxide
One of the many negative assumptions about carbon dioxide is that it attacks the teeth as it destroys the enamel. This is said to make teeth more susceptible to tooth decay. However, dentists give the all-clear in this respect. According to the German Dental Association: ‘Carbonic acid has no erosive [i.e., eroding or degrading] potential.’ However, other acids such as citric acid, which is contained in soft drinks and iced tea, or phosphoric acid (in cola drinks), are actually too acidic for the teeth and can damage them.

Other concerns are related to stomach acidity. Carbonated water has a lower pH value than still water. Tap water or still water usually has a pH value of around 7, while sparkling water has a pH value of 5.5 due to the carbon dioxide it contains.

Another persistent myth is that sparkling mineral water makes you fat. This assumption is based on a 2017 study by Birzeit University in Ramallah, which assumes that CO₂ increases the pressure on the stomach walls and that the body produces more appetite-stimulating ghrelin hormones. However, there is still no medically plausible evidence for this theory. Recent studies have also come to a different conclusion. You can read which one in the next section.

What really happens to the body?
But what really happens now? Carbon dioxide in water has different effects. On the one hand, it improves blood flow to the oral mucosa and tongue, stimulating saliva flow and allowing different flavors to develop more intensely. In addition, sparkling water reduces the feeling of hunger. This is because the carbon dioxide causes the stomach to expand, and a feeling of fullness occurs. Another effect of sparkling water on the body is that it aids digestion. This is because it stimulates the production of digestive juices and, therefore, has a positive effect on stomach and intestinal function.

But beware: in large quantities, the feeling of fullness can be unpleasant and cause flatulence. People who need to drink a lot—for example, athletes or people who work hard physically—should opt for low-carbon or non-carbonated water. People with stomach problems should also steer clear of fizzy drinks, as drinking them could lead to heartburn.

  • sources: dagens.de/freizeit.at/picture: Bild von Anja auf Pixabay
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