Science is good because it gives us things like cars and cellphones and no more plague. But sometimes science is like that person who asks if you’re sure you want to have another piece of cake given your inevitable post-sugar crash and also it’s 9 a.m. Now, recent research is suggesting you might want to reconsider that can you’ve been sipping on because sparkling water can make you feel more hungry.
This recent study comes from scientists who don’t want you to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet with your sparkling water. Just kidding, it’s from researchers at Birzeit University in Palestine whose findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice. They wanted to see if it was the “fizzy” part of fizzy drinks, instead of just the sugar, that could be linked to weight gain.
The study was conducted on rats over a six month period. Researchers gave rats four different types of drinks: carbonated soda, diet carbonated soda, flat soda, and tap water. If you’d like to imagine the tiny rats drinking out of tiny soda cans, feel free because the study doesn’t specify. After six months, researches analyzed cholesterol and blood sugar levels among each group of rats.
Their findings? Rats that drank carbonated drinks (both regular soda and diet, no-calorie soda) ate more than rats that consumed flat drinks (both water and flat, regular soda). So, increased appetite and subsequent weight gain was linked more to drinking carbonated drinks versus just sugary drinks.
So, what’s actually happening here? The carbonation in sparkling beverages causes elevated levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger. Due to increased appetite, consumption of fizzy beverages lead to greater weight gain than consumption of flat beverages in the study. So, if you feel extra peckish after a glass of sparkling water, that could be why.
Before you start Boston Tea Party-ing your sparkling drinks, this research comes with a couple caveats. First and foremost, it was conducted on rats. While surprisingly similar to humans (Where you at, Pizza Rat?), our biology is not identical. The study was followed up with a human test group, and findings mirrored that of the study in rats. Participants who drank sparkling water has six times more ghrelin in their system than those who drank still water. However, the sample size was small not very diverse (20 men, aged 18 to 23).
Additionally, the study with the rats didn’t account for variance in lifestyle, like amount of exercise and activity. So, while linked to increased appetite, carbonated drinks alone are not the conclusive cause of weight gain.
Previous research has even suggested that there are benefits to sparkling water. (Do you have a minute to talk about my lord and savior Topo Chico?) One study found it helped participants with constipation and indigestion more than still water. Another study found that the initial bloated feeling after you drink a carbonated drink could actually help you feel full, preventing overeating. There are also questions about whether carbonated drinks affects bone health and dental health, but the research is still inconclusive.
So, while the jury is out on if sparkling water is entirely bad for you, at least you know why you might feel a little hungrier after you down your sparkling water of choice.