As someone whose closest personal relationship is with her Soda Stream, I'm something of an evangelist for seltzer (or carbonated water, sparkling water or whatever they call joyfully fizzy H20 in your neck of the woods). The clear bubbly stuff helped me kick my once-crippling addiction to diet soda, and for that, I am forever grateful and always eager to sing its praises. Plus, it combines the nutritional wholesomeness of water with the thrilling fizz of something that's not water — what's not to love?
However, as I wander through this world singing my Song of Seltzer, I've run into a lot of people who have heard alarming rumors about my bubbly little buddy. All over the internet, people claim that seltzer consumption leads to bone damage, tooth damage and bowel damage. Basically, seltzer stands accused of doing everything short of stealing your wallet and using your credit card to buy some porn. But could seltzer really cause health problems like the internet rumor mill alleges?
You've probably come across the five seltzer myths below — and if your seltzer consumption rate is at all similar to mine, you'll be happy to know that reports of seltzer's negative health impacts have been greatly exaggerated. However, remember that the points below are only applicable to plain carbonated water made without any added sugar or flavoring. Once you start messing around with fruit juice or those flavor packet thingies, you're in bat country, and many of the negative health effects associated with sodas will apply to your drink, because it will contain sugar. Got it? OK! Now let;s all stop worrying and learn to love the fizz.
1. Does Seltzer Keep You As Hydrated As Regular Water?
The Rumor: A glass of seltzer doesn't count towards those mythic "eight glasses a day" — the bubbles keep it from being as healthy as plain water.
The Truth: Yes, seltzer is just as hydrating as boring-style (a.k.a. uncarbonated) water. Seltzer is made when carbon dioxide is dissolved in still water, which creates carbonic acid. The process adds bubbles — but it doesn't add anything else. More importantly, it doesn't take anything away from the water, making it just as hydrating and healthy as the fizz-free sort. Some studies have found that carbonation makes people feel full, leading them to drink less than they would have if they'd been drinking plain tap water — a problem which can be easily fixed by drinking more seltzer (my favorite way to solve problems, F.Y.I).
2. Does Seltzer Make Your Bones Brittle?
The Rumor: Those malicious little bubbles aren't just harmless fun — they prevent your bones from absorbing calcium, raising your risk for osteoporosis later in life. So I hope you're enjoying your fizzy water, lady — because it will eventually turn your skeleton to dust!
The Truth: Carbonated water does absolutely nothing to your bones. This confusion can be chalked up to some research conducted about flavored sodas, which found a connection between low bone density and cola consumption. This research attributed that link to the presence of phosphoric acid in cola — but other research has found that the low bone density of cola drinkers has less to do with specific chemicals contained in the cola, and is more likely the result of the drinkers consuming a diet that contained less calcium overall. Don't you feel bad for blaming those lil' bubbles like that now? All they ever wanted was to make you happy, and this is how you treat them!
3. Does Seltzer Damage Your Tooth Enamel?
The Rumor: Every sip you take from your glass of demon-water — excuse me, seltzer water — wears down the enamel on your teeth, which means that after a few years of heavy seltzer consumption, you're basically going to have a mouth full of teeth that look like corn nubs.
The Truth: Yes, seltzer is a little more corrosive to teeth than plain water— but not acidic enough to erode your teeth if you drink it in moderation. Again, this rumor seems to be the result of some crossed wires — carbonated water with additional flavoring has been found to be acidic enough to damage teeth (much like sodas, which also damage teeth). But if you're drinking your seltzer au natural, without any additional flavoring, only a few times a week? You should be fine. If you're a seltzer hound like me, well, it might eventually be a problem after a few years. But I'll cross that corn nub bridge when I come to it.
4. Does It Make You Gassy?
The Rumor: Seltzer will make you so bloated and farty, you will constantly feel like you are a Macy's Thanksgiving Parade balloon that is in the process of being deflated.
The Truth: Unfortunately, this one is kinda true. Carbonation is just extra air, and for most of us, all that extra air has to come out somewhere. Seltzer consumption has been linked to farting, burping and abdominal bloating (I will just anecdotally add that sometimes, if I drink a glass too quickly, it will give me a case of the hiccups). I think it's a small price to pay for divine pleasure that is a frosty glass of seltzer on a hot day, but your butt is obviously your business (and yes, this might make it not the ideal beverage to consume on a first date).
5. Does It Make You Constipated, Give You IBS Or Cause Other Bowel Problems?
The Rumor: Seltzer messes with your stomach, irritating your stomach lining or intestines with its carbonation — leading you to either not poop, poop constantly or develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
The Truth: This is yet another case of information getting twisted in the endless game of Telephone that is the internet. Some doctors advise people suffering from IBS to not consume carbonated beverages, as they increase gas and bloating, and can lead to stomach pain. However, seltzer will not give you IBS. It also won't erode your stomach lining and it won't constipate you — in fact, since our bodies process seltzer essentially the same way that they process regular water, seltzer should help you fight constipation the same way a glass of plain water would.
Yes, still water is nature's perfect beverage, and unflavored seltzer can possibly impact your tooth enamel or cause you to rip one during a very important conference call. But it can't make you sick, screw up your bones, or otherwise ruin your health or your life. There's nothing to be afraid of there (except a little gas).