Seltzer is better than Soda. But, are there any negatives?
March 17, 2008 5:10 PM   Subscribe

I drink A LOT of seltzer. I have heard about "carbonic acid". Should I be concerned? Are there any other negatives to high carbonation in a diet?

At work we are given unlimited amounts of bottled Poland spring water .. so I drink 3-5 bottles per day of it , occasionally flavored with crystal light energy w/ caffeine (sugar free) for a productive buzz. I drink nothing else at all during the day.

After work at home, I drink nothing but Seltzer. The only ingredients in my (generic store brand) seltzer is Carbonated water and natural flavor. No sugar, no sodium, no calories at all. I can easily drink 2 liters in a night.

I know for sure that the water/seltzer habit is great for my health (and kidneys). But I do have a tiny bit of concern (more just curiosity) about any possible negatives regarding a lot f carbonation in a diet. For example, I've heard that a week "carbonic acid" is formed within carbonated drinks. When I'm working out or other strenuous activity ... I find seltzer can actually make me more thirsty, so I usually only drink water at that point.

So, how bad could that carbonic acid be for me? I know its better then soda for sure , but are there [b]any[/b] negatives to seltzer?
Is the extra gas [buuurp. Excuse me] at all harmful for my digestive system and/or esophagus?
Am I exaggerating by showing any concern at all?

I will likely continue with my water / seltzer diet since I enjoy it so much. But, dazzle me with your knowledge and insight AskMeFi!
posted by Ryaske to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I can't tell you much, but I can tell you that rainwater has carbonic acid in it, through the disolving of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the water.
posted by Jimbob at 5:25 PM on March 17, 2008

It can block absorption of iron and calcium. That's not good, especially if you're a female. High carbonation intake is bad for your esophagus also.
posted by sixcolors at 5:36 PM on March 17, 2008

If I may jump abord this train: what about tonic water?
posted by orthogonality at 5:38 PM on March 17, 2008

Carbonated beverages, in the grand scheme of things, have a really negligible effect on blood calcium and bone strength or iron intake. This was the advice of no fewer than three separate nephrologists to me over a 10-year span, including periods of moderate anemia/iron deficiency, up to and through a kidney transplant (no dialysis, so I can't speak to that). I drink at least two liters regularly and have for years and years and having asked that question of several doctors was quite relieved by their responses. Your stomach acid is so much stronger than whatever weak acid concentration is in seltzer that it really doesn't matter at all. The CO2, for the most part, dissipates as you drink it/burp, and the surviving CO2 just passes into your bloodstream and through your lungs as you exhale. Not to be overly personal, but if you were having digestive troubles, you'd know, right?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:12 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and let me address a related question while I'm here: Carbonated beverages are incapable of making a person's blood acid enough to worsen gout. I'd heard that myth several times and it isn't even mathematically possible, according to the same doctors.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:14 PM on March 17, 2008

It's delicious with gin and lime, orthogonality. It's also carbonated water with sugar and quinine in it, so it does whatever seltzer does, plus give you cavities. Sadly it conveys no resistance to malaria.
posted by mumkin at 6:17 PM on March 17, 2008

Wikipedia seems to feel that it doesn't have a significant effect on dental or bone health. Also, many Germans (and possibly other Europeans) consume large amounts of soda water to no apparent ill effect.
posted by jedicus at 6:46 PM on March 17, 2008

If it makes you feel any better, carbonic acid is a natural component of blood. It's one of the ways that the body stores carbon dioxide for transport to the lungs. *
posted by 517 at 6:52 PM on March 17, 2008

H2CO3 ⇔ H+ + HCO3- ⇔ H2O + CO2

I mainly posted that because it amuses me to use all the special characters, but actually this stoichiometric equation describes an important buffering reaction that is the major determinant of pH in your body's blood and tissues. Your lungs (regulating CO2's transport) and your kidneys (regulating the movements of bicarb ion, HCO3-) play important roles and burn a lot of energy keeping this equilibrium in a delicate balance.

H2CO3 is called carbonic acid. It's what keeps your seltzer fizzy. It's not great to let it sit on your teeth and etch away the enamel, but if you have healthy lungs and kidneys it won't do you any harm.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:13 PM on March 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Regarding tonic water, Clarissa Dickson Wright (one of the Two Fat Ladies of TV cooking fame) claims her adrenal gland was destroyed after drinking gin and tonics every day for 12 years—and not from the gin.
posted by bcwinters at 7:27 PM on March 17, 2008

Poland Spring is not seltzer, and what ikkyu2 said. The other concern has been with calcium, and I think this is also debunked except to the extent that these drinks substitute for calcium sources in your diet. The real effect is on your wallet. Tap water is pretty cheap, usually tasty, and good for you too.
posted by caddis at 8:42 PM on March 17, 2008

I'm in my late 30s and have noticed some reflux problems. I cut way back on carbonated beverages and started drinking green tea, and have noticed a significant improvement. I'm starting to suspect that all the carbonated beverages probably compounded the reflux, so I'm staying off them for awhile to see what happens.
posted by mr. creosote at 9:01 PM on March 17, 2008

I don't know if carbonated drinks are bad, but if you find yourself worrying about this too much, consider trying good loose-leaf teas. They are not anything like regular Lipton's and Ahmad's and what have you; look at,,, - they have a very good variety of mid and high end teas. I never drink anything but tea and water because teas are an order of magnitude tastier than anything else, and variety is mind-boggling, there are 5 major types - black, green, white, oolong and pu-erh and even within these types many teas are extremely varied in taste.
posted by rainy at 9:17 PM on March 17, 2008

I drink A LOT of seltzer. I have heard about "carbonic acid". Should I be concerned? Are there any other negatives to high carbonation in a diet?

Depending on the ingredients in your flavored seltzer (particularly ascorbic acid and potassium or sodium benzoate), you may want to be concerned about benzene levels. There are a few PubMed references pointing to elevated benzene levels in citrus-flavored diet and regular soft drinks. It is conjectured that heat and ascorbic acid help turn benzoates into benzenes.

While CO2 is relatively harmless, benzene is a fairly nasty carcinogen.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:24 AM on March 18, 2008

This is only one man's experience, but I feel dehydrated when I drink too much seltzer. Switch to an equal amount of still water and I feel fine.
posted by gjc at 7:20 AM on March 18, 2008

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