by Dr Mercola 

Water is a basic human need, but drinking enough of it is something that many people struggle with simply because they find plain water boring. This is why sparkling water, a drink that’s been around for centuries, is finally becoming popular with consumers.

You’ve probably seen sparkling water lining the grocery shelves and heard how it’s a healthier alternative to sugary drinks like artificial fruit juices and carbonated soft drinks, but what exactly is this fizzy drink and how can it affect your health?

What Is Sparkling Water?

Also called carbonated water, sparkling water is basically water that has been infused with carbon dioxide gas under pressure. The process results in the production of carbonic acid, a very weak acid that causes the effervescent fizzy sensation on your tongue every time you take a sip of sparkling water.

Despite its recent rise to popularity, sparkling water is far from being a modern-day beverage, as it has been around since the 1700s. The origin of sparkling water can be traced back to the carbonated mineral waters from natural springs, which people also referred to as “seltzers” back in the day, after the carbonated natural springs in Niederselters, Germany.

Bathing in carbonated mineral water is believed to have healthy effects, which is why people eventually tried drinking it in the hope of getting the same results. With the goal of replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters, an English scientist named Joseph Priestley created the first artificially carbonated water back in 1767.

Priestley believed that sparkling water could help address numerous ailments, including scurvy, a deadly disease caused by vitamin C deficiency that claimed millions of lives from the 1500s to the 1800s. The Royal Society even awarded him their highest honour for creating fizzy water, and gave the explorer James Cook the necessary equipment to carbonate water in order to avoid scurvy as he and his crew set sail for Australia.

But while sparkling water did not cure scurvy, Priestley’s work still proved to be significant as it changed the world’s drinking habits. Nowadays, sparkling water is available in the following types:

• Seltzer Water

Not to be confused with naturally carbonated mineral waters that people referred to as “seltzers” in the past, the modern-day seltzer water is a clean-tasting drink that’s made from plain water infused with carbon dioxide.

• Club Soda

This ‘soda’ is not the same as the sugar-loaded carbonated soft drinks that can cause a variety of health issues. Club Soda is a type of sparkling water that’s infused with other mineral ingredients like sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, potassium sulfate and disodium phosphate, all of which lend it a subtly different flavour from plain seltzer water.

• Sparkling Mineral Water

This naturally carbonated water comes from natural springs and wells, and is sometimes bottled at the source. It naturally contains salt and sulphur compounds, giving it a distinct taste and a heavier mouthfeel. Its flavour may vary depending on where it came from.

Sparkling Water Versus Water: What’s the Difference?

Sparkling water has a fizziness that’s hard to miss, which makes it easy to differentiate from regular drinking water. To learn more about the differences and similarities between sparkling water and regular water, check out the table below:

  Regular Water Sparkling Water
Hydration Pure, clean water provides you with the proper hydration that you need for optimal health. Plain sparkling water is just as hydrating as regular water.
Mineral content Pure water contains trace amounts of valuable minerals like calcium and magnesium. Depending on the type, sparkling water may contain mineral ingredients like salt and sulphur compounds, which could be either naturally occurring or intentionally infused.
Taste Pure water is tasteless, and is often described as clean-tasting. Depending on the type, sparkling water may taste either clean or salty due to its sodium content.
Fizziness Regular water does not cause a fizzy sensation, hence why it’s sometimes called still or flat water. The carbonic acid in sparkling water makes it bubbly. However, carbonation can make you feel full quickly, preventing you from drinking enough water.

If you’re craving sugary carbonated drinks, I recommend you drink sparkling water to satisfy your taste buds. However, regular water is still better than carbonated water, as it allows you to drink as much water as you need without the risk of bloating.

Some sparkling water brands may also contain artificial sweeteners, which are linked to a variety of health problems such as obesity, metabolic dysfunction, liver disease and insulin sensitivity, among others. With that in mind, be sure to always read the label when buying carbonated water.

Is Sparkling Water Bad for You?

There are some concerns that sparkling water may cause tooth decay and calcium loss in bones, but plain sparkling water does not really cause these touted side effects, as noted by these studies:

• A 2006 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted that the intake of cola (but not of other carbonated beverages such as sparkling water), is associated with low bone mineral density in women. Researchers suggest that this is due to imbalanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratios caused by daily cola consumption.

• A 2009 case report published in the Journal of Zhejiang University Science B states that the addition of acids and sugars in some carbonated beverages are to blame for dental erosion. Even if sparkling water is slightly more acidic than regular water, it still doesn’t affect your teeth’s enamel.

The same cannot be said for flavoured sparkling water, though, which should be considered potentially erosive, as it demonstrated similar or higher erosive potential than pure orange juice, according to a 2007 study published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry.

In addition to being a healthier choice of beverage than sugary drinks, plain sparkling water may also have other health benefits, including:

• Relieves chronic throat clearing

In a study published in The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 72 patients with a chronic throat clearing issue were advised to add ice-cold carbonated water to their regime in order to relieve their symptoms. Results showed that 63 percent of the patients experienced relief, with the most severely and frequently affected patients having the highest improvement in their symptoms.

• Helps alleviate constipation

According to a study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, drinking carbonated water may help increase the frequency of defaecation in constipated patients.

*This is an edited article. For the full article, including references, please visit the below website.