Is carbonated water safe to drink?
May 6th, 2011
07:20 AM ET

Is carbonated water safe to drink?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Question asked by Vicky B. of Riverview, Michigan

I just bought a home carbonator. Is there any danger to drinking carbonated water instead of still water? Some web articles state that carbonated water does not flush toxins like still water, that it causes kidney stones because it is harder to digest and that it leaches calcium from the bones.

Expert answer:

I’m glad you asked this question as I’m addicted to my home carbonator and I find that I drink much more water, particularly with meals, than I used to. In addition, using a home carbonator is better for the environment as it saves on those plastic bottles that we see almost everywhere these days.

Regarding the health aspect, I could find no research suggesting that carbonated water would not flush toxins as effectively as plain water. With regards to leaching calcium from the bones or increased kidney stone formation (which is probably theoretically due to increase calcium loss in the urine rather than digestion difficulty), again there is no clinical evidence that this occurs. A 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that carbonated colas were associated with slightly decreased bone density in older women, but other non-cola carbonated beverages were not.

Carbonated water is created (or exists naturally) by dissolving carbon dioxide(CO2) in water. This creates carbonic acid, which is more acidic than regular water (it falls somewhere in the range of apple and orange juice) but is much less acidic than the stomach.

It is important to understand that the human body maintains pH equilibrium on a constant basis and will not be affected by water consumption. Some concern exists regarding tooth enamel erosion due to the increased acidity, but a 2001 study in the Journal of Oral Rehabilitation showed that while sparkling mineral waters showed slightly greater erosive potential than still waters, the potential was considered low and was of the order of one hundred times less than soft drinks.

Some bottled or canned carbonated water contains added sodium to decrease this acidity and improve taste. If you are on a low sodium diet and consume bottled or canned carbonated water, make sure to pay attention to the sodium content and choose lower sodium options.

The only real health concern with drinking carbonated water is aggravation of irritable bowel syndrome due to the release of CO2 which could cause bloating and gas. So if you suffer from IBS, it may be best to limit or avoid intake of any carbonated beverage. If not, carbonated water is a good way to increase water intake and is also a refreshing way of diluting the calories in high calorie beverages like juice and white wine.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.