Carbonated drinks leach calcium from bones, causing lowered bone density; contribute to higher rates of acidity in the body; and contribute to tooth decay.
Each of these were adequately debunked by ZocDoc:
[Carbonated] drinks without caffeine do not increase calcium excretion. Moreover, caffeine’s effect on calcium and bone metabolism is negligible when sufficient calcium is consumed in the diet. Therefore the carbonated drinks that do impact bone mineral density are likely working through a mechanism other than carbonation or caffeine.
One suggestion is that the slightly acidic nature of carbonated drinks (usually due to citric acid or phosphoric acid) may increase bone resorption. However, this hypothesis has been tested and disproved.
Another study showed that a less acidic, alkaline mineral water with high sodium content did not impact bone metabolism. The same low acid, high salt mineral water was also shown to improve markers of heart disease.
What about tooth decay? Acidic foods and drinks are known to erode tooth enamel. Is the slightly lower pH of carbonated mineral water therefore something we should be concerned about?
In one study, artificially flavored sparkling waters were tested and shown to be very acidic and measurably dissolve a substance similar to tooth enamel (though the solutions were not tested directly on human teeth). Most were flavored with fruit juice (a known promoter of tooth decay) along with added citric acid, which explains the lower pH. While this is certainly a sign that flavored waters should be consumed with caution, other studies of carbonated water alone have shown a negligible effect on tooth erosion. [source]
That’s a particularly valuable quote, because all of the links inside it are links to studies that will help further explain.
It’s also worth noting that seltzer, mineral, and tonic waters aren’t being used interchangeably, here – they’re literally separate options, and worth differentiating between.
What is sparkling mineral water?
Mineral water, defined by the FDA, is “[water,] containing not less than 250 parts per million total [of] dissolved solids, that originates from a geologically and physically protected underground source.” Mineral water comes from an environmental source – usually some kind of natural spring or well. There – yes, in the ground – it may or may not be combined with different salts and sulfuric compounds that naturally give it that fizz. Mineral water – because of the minerals, obvi – has a more earthy mouthfeel, much darker in comparison to seltzer water.
This is different from the brands we’re used to identifying as “sparkling mineral water,” such as Perrier or San Pellegrino. Perrier, bottled in France, is bottled from a carbonated source, but the Perrier plant actually collects the water and the carbonic gas separately, re-combining the two at the plant in order to maintain “consistency.” San Pellegrino, from Italy, comes from a source that isn’t naturally carbonated, so the SP facility adds “carbonation from natural origin.” (It’s worth noting, this is how the homemade seltzer water machines make your seltzer water, too.)
Also…don’t be fooled – some brands that produce fizzy waters have also begin producing outright sugary sodapop. These aren’t the same, they aren’t the same, they aren’t the same. And all it takes is a simple glance over to the nutrition facts to see that – with some boasting as much as 50g of sugar in a can, you’d be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire with drinking those.
What is seltzer water?
Seltzer water is water that has been carbonated, and has had nothing added except the carbon dioxide. Brands like Polar – not that Polar – and Schweppes are well-known seltzer brands. You won’t find additional sodium (or kinds of sodium) in these drinks, but you won’t find the additional minerals in it, either.
What is club soda?
Club soda is the stuff you usually encounter at the bar. Club soda has different kinds of carbonation added to it – sodium bicarbonate (better known as baking soda), potassium bicarbonate – which also gives it a bit of flavor for mixing, as well. Canada Dry and Seagrams are two of the most popular brands you’re dealing with, here.
…and tonic water?
If you’re wondering about tonic waters, well… for starters, they’re not water. Think “Gin and Tonic.” Seagrams (of course they’d sell a proper tonic to go with their proper gin, right? none of which you should be drinking, right? wink wink nudge nudge) and Canada Dry both also make these as well as club soda, but they’re very different thanks to the addition of quinine.
Quinine was originally used as a malaria treatment during the days of colonial India. Naturally found in the bark of the cinchona tree found in the Peruvian Andes, one legend of its discovery claims that a South American Indian suffering from malaria took a drink from a pool of water contaminated with cinchona tree and it cured his fever. Regardless of exactly how it was discovered, the first documentation of its use as malaria is recorded in 1630 in Peru. It continued to be used for its antimalarial properties until the 1920s, when other drugs with fewer side effects took its place, like chloroquine. That’s almost 300 years of use. And somewhere along the way, quinine found its way into our cocktails.
We spoke to Jordan Silbert — founder of the fancy soda and tonic company, Q Drinks — and here’s how he recounts quinine’s transition from treatment to cocktail:
In 1825 clever — or drunk, depending on how you look at it — British officers in the Indian Army improved this bitter medicine by mixing it with soda water, sugar, and gin. Instead of drinking the medicine with their troops at dawn, the officers figured out how to enjoy it at cocktail hour. The original gin and tonic was born, and it soon became the quintessential drink of the British Empire.
Today, quinine is rarely used for medicinal purposes. The FDA recently banned its use as a cure for leg cramps due to the negative side effects that can result from ingesting large amounts, such as headaches and fever. Some bad reactions to quinine have even been fatal.
Scary, we know. But don’t let that deter you from ordering a gin and tonic next time you’re at the bar, because tonic water contains very low levels of quinine. A glass of tonic water holds roughly 20 mg of quinine, whereas a dose for the treatment of leg cramps would be in the 200 to 300 mg range. [source]
On to the important stuff. Is this stuff safe? Absolutely. It’s not leaching this off that, or causing this to burn, or that to explode or fall off. All your bones and limbs are safe.
Most importantly, drinking fizzy waters can help you cut a sodapop addiction, by way of having a seltzer water with a lime squeeze instead of a Sprite or Sierra Mist. (Check out this special water bottle that might be able to help you do just that!) Or, if you enjoy the spirited spirit every once in a while, slow drink your gin and tonic instead of a screwdriver (although I prefer no alcohol, I’m also a realist. I know folks want to drink every once in a while….as long as it’s once in a while and not every night.)
If you have a sodapop habit, and you’re looking to cut it while knowing that cold turkey is an impossible feat, consider going to fizzy water with a squeeze instead of just trying and failing repeatedly with cold turkey. If you have an attraction to the fizz, a San Pellegrino or a Schweppes might do just fine; if you want flavor, squeeze an orange over the top and add ice. There are even machines that allow you to make your own fizzy water at home (and, if you check it out and decide to buy, using my link to get there will send a few pennies my way!) It’s a great way to cut sugar, and help you reach your goal of skipping the fizzy stuff altogether!