Fizzy water has long been heralded as a healthy drink choice. One to turn to once you’ve finally weened yourself off that hardcore Diet Coke addiction. Or when you’re trying to keep hydrated but are getting bored af with plain old tap water.
It is water after all... It might be fizzy, but it’s still water, right?
So, is sparkling water healthy?
Fizzy drinks are mainly considered unhealthy because of their sugar content. But researchers from Birzeit University in Palestine, wanted to find out whether it was actually due to the gasses in the drink rather than the sugar.
In the study, they gave rats tap water, flat water, ordinary soda and diet sugar-free soda. The scientists, who published their study in the journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, found that when they gave rats fizzy drinks over water they gained wait at a faster rate. This weight gain was because the rat’s levels of the hormone that controls hunger, called ghrelin, was elevated.
The researchers then looked at 20 young men to see if the same findings as they found in the rats could apply. They found that the men also had higher levels of the ghrelin hormone.
Even though the study didn’t test for the effect of fizzy water it has been assumed that because the scientists found it was the gas in the drinks, as opposed to the sugar – the same could be applied to fizzy water.
The thing is, sparkling water contains zero calories so it is highly unlikely it can make you gain weight.
Can you gain weight drinking sparkling water?
The NHS point out that this study was only tested in rats and then a very small sample of men – meaning we can’t really generalise to all men, let alone women. They also did not examine other unhealthy lifestyle factors which could have led to weight gain. For instance, they say people who drink lots of fizzy drinks might also have an unhealthier general diet and exercise less.
Duane Mellor, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, looked at the findings for us and said: “We have no evidence in humans so far that fizzy water leads to weight gain as short term effects on a hormone linked to hunger in young adults cannot be stretched to weight gain.”
Similarly, Laura Southern, a nutritional therapist at London Food Therapy, says we should start worrying about fizzy sugary drinks much more rather than fizzy water.
“This was a very small study, and we know, from numerous research that it's the sugar and the sweeteners in fizzy drinks [which] are so detrimental to health,” she told Cosmopolitan UK. “Therefore, I would advise limiting fizzy drinks which contain sweeteners and sugar, but not worrying too much about the risks to weight gain of fizzy water.”
Does sparkling water hydrate you?
Dr Emma Derbyshire, an advisor to the National Hydration Council, told us we should be drinking approximately two litres of fluid per day. This fluid can come from both food and drinks “including water (still or sparkling), tea, coffee and juices”. The council says that 70-80% of the water we consume should be from drinks and 20-30% food.
“Plain water, whether naturally sourced still, sparkling or tap is the healthiest way to hydrate and many of us don’t drink enough,” she said.
Tom Oliver, a personal trainer and nutritionist, also says that fizzy water isn’t any less hydrating than normal water. “The body is made up of around 60% water and we are constantly losing water by sweat or urine, I would recommend drinking 1.5L a day of still or sparkling water for optimum hydration,” he says.
He adds that while filtered water will always be the healthier option, “saying fizzy water is a bad option is not correct”. Well, that’s that then.
Nutritionist Karen Newby also says that, out of everything, her main aim with clients is for them to drink water. So sometimes, if her patients are reluctant to drink enough water, she’s happy for them to start with fizzy and gradually introduce tap water.
What are the benefits of sparkling water?
Southern says that there are several health benefits of sparkling water. A study published in 2005 found that in postmenopausal women, they retained higher levels of calcium after drinking one litre of sparkling water every day.
A 2011 study into elderly, stroke patients, who were suffering from constipation, found that they managed to go to the toilet easier (sorry if you’re reading this over dinner) and their constipation was reduced after drinking fizzy water.
On the other hand, if you have irritable bowel syndrome (a common condition where sufferers are plagued with cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation), nutritional expert Angelique Panagos says fizzy water could make you feel more bloated.
“Some studies have shown positive effects on digestion and ease symptoms of constipation,” she says. “However, people may feel that it can cause bloating, after all there are a lot of bubbles. If you are prone to bloating or suffer from IBS I would recommend that you avoid drinking sparkling water in large quantities.”
A report on IBS by Kings College Hospital in London supported this by also recommending avoiding fizzy drinks – including sparkling water – because consuming it can make your problems worse, especially when it comes to bloating.
says even if you don’t have IBS, don’t down gallons of fizzy water especially around meal times as it can reduce stomach acid. Fizzy water also contains sodium (salt). This can be good if you’re especially dehydrated but again not in really large quantities.
According to a spokesperson from the National Hydration Council: "The amount of sodium in sparkling water will vary from brand to brand depending on the geology of the land that they come from as the minerals are naturally occurring. The amount of sodium there is in bottled water will be listed on the label."
Is sparkling water bad for your teeth?
Mellor says one of the biggest health risks with fizzy water is that the carbonic acid can erode your teeth and wear away the surface enamel. “Enjoy fizzy water in moderation ideally with a meal,” he advises. “But tap water is cheaper and may be better for your teeth.”
However, it’s also worth noting that it is meant to be 100 times kinder to teeth than sugary carbonated drinks.
All in all, the experts are pretty unified in thinking that fizzy water can’t directly lead to weight gain. After all, the drink literally contains zero calories. SO basically, carry on drinking water – which is so important to our health – and don’t go overboard on the fizzy, sugary or sweetened drinks. Simple.
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