Is sparkling water healthy?

Move over, soda. Carbonated water drinks — including sparkling, seltzer, fizzy and minerals waters — are all the rage right now. It's now a multi-billion dollar industry. But are these beverages good for you?

Carbonated water is a healthier alternative to soda, juice or sports drinks like Gatorade. But not all carbonated water drinks are created equal. Some contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which can add calories, harm teeth, and trigger some health conditions.

Can sparkling water help you lose weight?

Yes. For people watching their weight, hydration is key. Sparkling water provides true hydration, and it’s a much better option than drinking regular soda or even diet soda, which don’t provide adequate hydration. If a person’s not hydrated, they may always feel hungry, because the body can’t tell the difference between hunger and thirst. But people who are watching their weight should be careful which type of carbonated water they drink. Tonic water, for example, has about 15 grams of sugar in a serving – that’s about a third as much as a regular soda. So drinking a lot of tonic water is not the best option. Do a club soda or a sparkling water with no added sugar instead.

Can carbonated water trigger the “hunger hormone” ghrelin?

Probably not. There was a small animal study that found consuming only carbonated water caused an increase in ghrelin. More studies need to be performed. In some studies, carbonated water improved satiety, or the feeling of fullness. That could be a benefit for people who constantly feel hungry. Carbonated water improves digestion and helps constipation, so that empties the stomach and could possibly make someone feel hungry.

Is sparkling water a good substitute for people trying to kick a soda habit?

Absolutely. Club soda or sparkling water will hydrate them better than regular soda, as long as the drink doesn’t have added sugar, which can cause weight gain and harm teeth.

What should people look for on carbonated water labels? Is artificially flavored sparkling water bad for you?

Make sure it’s zero calories and zero sugar. Avoid drinks with high fructose corn syrup and regular sugar. With flavored sparkling waters, artificial flavoring is OK, but my recommendation is to limit excessive artificial sweeteners, like aspartame or Splenda. Again, these may be superior to regular soda, but more studies need to be done on these sweeteners. People also should be mindful of sodium. If each can of carbonated water has 100 or 200 milligrams of sodium, that can add up. Some carbonated waters are made with carbonic acid, to create the carbonation, but that shouldn’t have a detrimental effect. Even if carbonated water is a little bit acidic, it shouldn’t have an effect on the dental enamel.

Does drinking sparkling water cause gas and bloating?

Some patients find it improves their digestion, and reduces indigestion. In my practice, I’ve found excessive intake can induce gas and bloating, making people uncomfortable. Patients with acid reflux, Gastroesophgeal Reflux Disease (GERD), or gas who are drinking mostly carbonated water should switch to non-carbonated beverages, like plain water. More studies are needed on the impact on people with acid reflux, GERD and heartburn, because sugar can really impact GERD. Using straws to drink carbonated water also can increase gas and bloating.

Can sparkling water cause bone density loss?

There is no negative effect on bone health. The only drinks that cause bone loss are dark colas, which have phosphoric acid that leads to losing calcium in your bones. Sparkling mineral water has calcium in it, which can improve bone health. And the carbonated mineral waters with magnesium and calcium may have bone-boosting benefits.

Can you make carbonated water yourself?

Yes. There are machines people can buy that add carbonation to water. As long as people don’t add sugar, it’s fine.