Expert explains whether sparkling water is the same as plain water

The fruity, unique flavors and bright packaging of many seltzer and sparkling water brands have taken supermarkets by storm-;and many people say these bubbly beverages get them to drink more water every day.

But is this the same as drinking plain water?

We asked Mark Zeidel, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, to weigh in with some facts.

There are so many different brands of seltzer and sparkling water. What's the difference?

Dr. Zeidel: The main difference between seltzer and sparkling water comes down to where the carbonation comes from. If the carbonation is artificial, it's a seltzer or club soda that is regulated by the FDA like a soda. If the bubbles are naturally occurring, straight from the source, it's considered sparkling water, and regulated like bottled water.

Whether it's a seltzer or a sparkling water, it's important to read the nutrition label because many brands are not just carbonation and water. Avoid beverages with added flavorings, sugars and citric acid.

What about sparkling mineral water?

Dr. Zeidel: Just like plain mineral water, sparkling mineral water comes from an underground source and naturally contains minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium or manganese. The amount of minerals can differ from drink to drink but these are natural and not added.

Because sodium is an electrolyte you lose through sweating, mineral water can help quicken hydration if you've lost a lot of fluids through exercise. Usually the amounts of minerals in the water are very low, and they will not really alter your salt or mineral balance. However, if you're watching your sodium intake, still water may be a better option because it doesn't contain any sodium.

Do these drinks hydrate you as much as regular water?

Dr. Zeidel: Yes, carbonated water will hydrate just as well as still water. Fruit-flavored sparkling water offers a no-calorie, no-sugar alternative to soda. Again, just watch for added sugar.

We've heard that sparkling water can be harmful to your teeth. Is this true?

Dr. Zeidel: The carbonation in sparkling water comes from carbon dioxide that is forced to dissolve using low temperatures and high pressure. This process creates carbonic acid, giving sparkling water an acidity level lower on the pH scale than normal tap water. This isn't nearly as acidic or corrosive as soda, but some flavors may be more corrosive than others. It depends on the acidity.

What do you recommend for people with sensitive stomachs?

Dr. Zeidel: Some people report bloating, burping, gas or stomach discomfort with sparkling water, so if you have sensitive digestion issues, you may do better with still water.

If you're at a restaurant, and the waiter asks if you want regular, mineral or sparkling, what do you choose?

Dr. Zeidel: It's personal preference. The water might be spring water, purified water or bubbly with carbonation. All are good choices for your overall health.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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