Sparkling or Still Water? Which is better?
Carbonated or "sparkling" water
What is carbonated water? It is water that contains dissolved carbon dioxide gas.
The first sparkling water known to mankind was naturally carbonated, water that picked up its bubbles from underground sources of carbon dioxide.
Examples of naturally carbonated waters are those from the original springs of Selters (The place name was slightly transformed and became "Seltzer"), Perrier, and Gerolsteiner Sprudel.
The naturally carbonated water has a lighter effervescence in comparison to artificially carbonated water, they are "fizzy" yet mild.
Joseph Priestley who discovered carbon dioxide also discovered the way to infuse water with it. He published his discovery in a paper (Impregnating water wth fixed air) in 1767.
A few years later Priestley's method was improved and Thomas Henry built the first carbonated water plant in Manchester, England where he produced "artificial Seltzer water."
Carbon dioxide is a gas with the chemical formula CO2, that is, one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen. It is the best known "greenhouse" gas and it is generated by many natural processes (such as breathing, combustion, volcanos, and degassing from sedimentary rocks) as well as man-made sources (burning of fossil fuels).
A carbonated beverage has around 1⁄8 oz. of carbon dioxide per quart (3.5 g per liter).
Carbon dioxide is dissolved in water under pressure. This process is done at a low temperature so that the water can dissolve more gas. The bottle is then capped and its contents remain pressurized.
When the bottle is opened pressure drops, and the carbon dioxide is released from the solution as bubbles that give the beverage is typical effervescence.
Types of Carbonated Water
Sparkling water is the name that covers all the varieties of carbonated water. It can include:
- Naturally carbonated mineral water.
- Artificially carbonated water.
- Seltzer water.
- Club Soda.
Difference between Club Soda and Seltzer water
Club soda is a variety of carbonated water. It is water to which carbonation and potassium bicarbonate and⁄or potassium sulfate has been artificially added to enhance its flavor.
It is very similar to seltzer water, but seltzer water does not include the added mineral content (so it is similar to unprocessed mineral water).
Verify the sodium content of Club Soda if you have high blood pressure issues, it contains added sodium to imitate the taste of mineral water
Bubbles, bite, and taste
The allure of carbonated water is the oral sensation it provokes. The usual assumption is that the bubbles stimulate the inside of our mouths and tongue as the CO2 bubbles burst.
Wise (2013) (1) investigated the "carbonation bite" of sparkling water and confirmed that the sensation is not mechanical but chemical.
Wise placed the subjects in a room whose atmospheric pressure could be adjusted. The subjects gave the same carbonation bite rating to water that they drank at normal atmospheric pressure (which allows bubbles to form) and to water drank at a pressure of 2 atmospheres, which does not allow bubbles to form.
In other words, the bite was not caused by bubbles but by the reaction of the carbon dioxide with the tongue, which produces carbonic acid.
Other similar experiments in which bubble formation was prevented provoked the same mouth-burn, pricking, bite, tingling sensations in the subjects. Clearly, the mechanism is chemical, it is the carbon dioxide that gives carbonated water its tang.
In another test, Wise created streams of air bubbles around the tongue and found that it did not induce a bite sensation in un-carbonated solutions but it enhanced the carbonation bite in mildly tart carbon dioxide solutions.
So bubbles even though not necessary for feeling the "bite", enhance its sensation.
The sensations described are also dependent on the temperature and the carbon dioxide content of the drink: Harper and McDaniel (1993) (2) gave a trained panel sparkling water with different carbonation levels at different temperatures and found that increasing CO2 levels increased the use of descriptors such as sour, bitter, bubbly, bubble size, feeling, bite, numbing.
Warmer drinks were rated higher for bubble size and bubble sound while cooler drinks rated higher on bite, burn, cooling, and numbing.
Does Sparkling water cause weight gain?
Many people want to know if sparkling water has calories. No, it does not. Water does not provide energy to our bodies. It is necessary for our metabolism but has zero calories.
Carbon dioxide does not provide any energy either. It is an inorganic gas which is not assimilated by or bodies.
But, does sparkling water influence our appetite?
Do the bubbles make you hungrier?
This study says it does
Eweis (2017) (3) gave rats different types of carbonated beverages to drink and measured how much "hunger hormone" (ghrelin) they released.
A control group was given degassed carbonated drinks (flat sodas). They ran a similar test with 20 healthy men and found that:
- The rats drinking carbonated beverages "gain[ed] weight at a faster rate than controls on regular degassed carbonated beverage or tap water."
- Weight gain in the rats was due to "elevated levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and thus greater food intake in rats drinking carbonated drinks compared to control rats."
- In humans, the levels of ghrelin increased in those drinking carbonated beverages compared to controls drinking flat sodas.
The authors concluded that "these results implicate a major role for carbon dioxide gas in soft drinks in inducing weight gain and the onset of obesity via ghrelin release and stimulation of the hunger response."
These studies say it doesn't
But, this study is at odds with a previous study (Wakisaka, 2012) (4) who also investigated the effects of carbonated water on gastric and appetite sensation in young healthy women.
Wakisaka concluded that "Carbonated Water may induce a short-term, but significant, satiating effect ...".
Suzuki in 2017 (5), also reported a hunger-suppressing effect for carbonated water, informing "significantly increased fullness and decreased hunger ratings" and attributed it to the oral stimulation caused by carbon dioxide gas.
Further research is necessary on the effects that carbon dioxide has on hunger.
Salt Rich Carbonated Water and heart disease
Schoppen (2004) (6) studied postmenopausal women who drank 1 liter per day of carbonated water which was rich in sodium, chloride, and bicarbonate and compared them to a control group that drank plain water.
The carbonated water drinkers' cardiovascular disease indicators improved:
- Total cholesterol values dropped by 6.8%.
- LDL-cholesterol (or "bad" cholesterol) fell by 14.8%.
- HDL-cholesterol (or "good" cholesterol) increased by 8.7%.
- Fasting glucose concentration decreased by 6.7% (blood sugar is an indicator of insulin resistance).
Schoppen concluded that sodium-rich carbonated water prevents cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
Sodium Rich Sparkling Water and its Effect on Blood Pressure
The interesting part of Schoppen's study (6) is that although high-sodium diets are associated with hypertension (high blood pressure), in this study, blood pressure was not affected.
Schoppen's team attributes this beneficial effect on the bicarbonate ions in the water. Furthermore, this carbonated water also contained " 39 times more potassium than the control water; potassium counteracts some of the negative effects of sodium."
Santos (2010) (7) investigated the effect of sodium-rich carbonated water on blood pressure and found that it did not affect it.
Carbon dioxide gas dissolved in water at low concentrations (between 0.2 and 1%) formscarbonic acid (H2CO3).
It is the carbonic acid that gives carbonated waters a distinct slightly acidic flavor. Its acid value (measured as pH) lies between 3 and 4 so it is about as acidic as orange juice or apple juice.
The presence of sodium bicarbonate (as in Schoppen's study) would neutralize part of the carbonic acid, reducing acidity.
Carbonic Acid and Bone Health
Ogur (2007) (8) found that consumption of cola drinks is associated with a decrease in bone mineral density. But this negative effect has not been reported in other carbonated beverages such as sparkling water.
Apart from carbonic acid, cola sodas are acidified with phosphoric acid as a preservative, which may leach calcium from the bones.
Tooth enamel erosion
Acidic foods and beverages can cause erosion of the dental enamel, leading to cavities. The critical level is a pH value of around 4. Below that value dental erosion can occur.
Neutral pH is 7, and as the value decreases acidity increases.
Avanija (2016) (9) classified beverages based on their acidity and their erosive power. The table below shows some selected beverages rated in this study:
- Minimally erosive (pH above 4.0)
- Erosive (pH above 3 - 3.99)
- Extremely erosive (pH below 3.0)
Minute Maid Lemonade
Gatorade Rain Lime
Mountain Dew Reg.
San Pellegrino sparkling
Cola drinks have a pH of around 2.75, which is roughly 100 times more erosive than carbonated water with a pH of 4.75 (the pH scale is not linear, it is logarithmic so a difference of 1 unit means a difference of 10 times in terms of acidity).
Parry (2001) (10) investigated how still and sparkling mineral waters eroded extracted human teeth. The study found that "Dissolution levels with all of the mineral waters were very low and for several still waters were undetectable. Sparkling mineral waters showed slightly greater dissolution than still waters, but levels remained low."
Another effect was that mineral waters (that is, waters that contain dissolved minerals) with their mineral ions "may positively influence any dissolution processes at the tooth surface."
Some bottled seltzers are flavored with citric acid (an acid which is found in oranges, limes, and lemons) which makes them more acidic and can lower their pH below the threshold and cause damage to the tooth enamel.
Adding a slice of lemon to your glass of carbonated water will not increase acid levels so it is a safe way to add flavor to your drinks without harming your teeth.
The Hydrating effect of still and sparkling water
Both still and sparkling water hydrate in the same way. Maughan (2016) (11) compared the "beverage hydrating index" of different kinds of drinks (juice, cola, milk, beer, still, and sparkling water) and found no differences between carbonated and still water.
Concerned about Dehydration? Read More at our:
> > Dehydration: Causes, symptoms, how to treat it, and how to avoid it.
Carbonated water may make you feel satiated and whet your appetite. Like still water, it has zero calories so it cannot fatten you.
Unlike plain water which is neutral, sparkling water is slightly acidic due to the carbonic acid that carbon dioxide forms when it is dissolved in water. This weak acidity may have an erosive effect on your teeth.
Both sparkling and still water have the same hydrating effects.
References and Further Reading
(1) Paul M. Wise, Madeline Wolf, Stephen R. Thom, Bruce Bryan (2013). The Influence of Bubbles on the Perception Carbonation Bite. Published: August 21, 2013https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071488
(2) Harper Steven, McDaniel Mina (1993). Carbonated Water Lexicon: Temperature and CO2 Level Influence on Descriptive Ratings. Oregon State University Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Paper No. 10,016.
(3) Eweis, Dureen Samandar et al. (2017). Carbon dioxide in carbonated beverages induces ghrelin release and increased food consumption in male rats: Implications on the onset of obesity. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice , Vol.11:5 , 534 - 543 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orcp.2017.02.001
(4) Shiori Wakisaka et al., (2012). The effects of Carbonated Water upon Gastric and Cardiac activities and fullness in healthy young women. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 58, 333-338, 2012
(5) Maki Suzuki, Emi Mura, Ayako Taniguchi, Toshio Moritani, Narumi Nagai, (2017) Oral Carbonation Attenuates Feeling of Hunger and Gastric Myoelectrical Activity in Young Women, J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo), 2017;63(3): 186-192. DOI: 10.3177/jnsv.63.186.
(6) Stefanie Schoppen et al., (2004). A Sodium-Rich Carbonated Mineral Water Reduces Cardiovascular Risk in Postmenopausal Women. The Journal of Nutrition, Vol 134:5, 1 May 2004, 1058-1063, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/134.5.1058
(7) Santos A, Martins MJ, Guimaraes JT, Severo M, Azevedo I, (2010). Sodium-rich carbonated natural mineral water ingestion and blood pressure, Rev Port Cardiol. 2010 Feb;29(2):159-72./p>
(8) Ogur Recai, et al., (2007). Evaluation of the effect of cola drinks on bone mineral density and associated factors. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2007 May;100(5):334-8. DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-7843.2007.00053.x
(9) Avanija Reddy et al., (2016). The pH of beverages in the United States. April 2016 Vol 147:4, 255-263 JADA
(10) Parry J, Shaw L, Arnaud MJ, Smith AJ., (2001). Investigation of mineral waters and soft drinks in relation to dental erosion. J Oral Rehabil. 2001 Aug;28(8):766-72
(11) Ronald J Maughan, Phillip Watson, et al., (2016). . A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 103:3, March 2016, Pages 717-723, https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.114769
About this Article
Which is better? Sparkling or Still Water? A. Whittall
©2018 Fit-and-Well.com, 11 Oct. 2018. Updated. 31 Oct. 2020. https://www.fit-and-well.com/health/sparkling-or-still-water.html
Subject: Fit-and-Well.com. Sparkling or Still Water? The pros and cons of drinking carbonated or plain still water. Benefits and calories in sparkling water vs. water.