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Sparkling mineral water - is it good for you?

Sparkling mineral water

Do you prefer to get your hydration from tap water or the bottled and carbonated mineral variety?

Many of us prefer to sip on sparkling mineral water, but have held back because we’re told it’s not good for us. Common folklore says the fizzy beverage can strip the lining of your stomach, rot your teeth, and weaken your bones. But surely if the rumours about sparkling mineral water were true, there’s no doubt the Australian government would have stepped in and banned the substance.

At its most basic, mineral water is simply water collected from a spring or pumped from a well that contains naturally occurring minerals. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium – the ones we’re always being told to eat more of. Sparkling mineral water simply contains natural gasses, or has been artificially carbonated by pumping carbon dioxide through it.

Over the years, concern for the effects of carbonated beverages has led many researches to try and debunk the myths. Here’s what they found:

It weakens your bones: FALSE 

There’s an old wives tale that says the bubbles in fizzy drinks strip the calcium from your bones. But there’s no substance to this. In fact, if you’re sipping on sparkling mineral water, you’ll be strengthening your bones. Plain carbonated mineral water contains high levels of bicarbonate and is an alkaline beverage, the opposite of acid. A 2005 study in Spain, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that women who drank a litre of carbonated mineral water once a day lost less calcium than when they drank tap water. The scientists concluded that when mineral-rich carbonation evens out acidity in the body, it helps keep the calcium locked inside bones.

It causes flatulence: TRUE

Carbonated water can cause a buildup of air that can move down the digestive tract and into the colon, causing embarrassing flatulence.

It lowers your blood pressure: TRUE

The magnesium found in carbonated mineral water helps to regulate your blood pressure. Bottled mineral water contains up to four times as much calcium and magnesium as regular tap water. One study found that people who were drinking tap water low in magnesium were able to lower their blood pressure by drinking a litre of mineral water every day.

It can cause stomach ulcers: TRUE

As carbonated water fizzes and bubbles away in your stomach, it can cause a build-up of air. This build-up of air can also cause abdominal distension, bloating, and in severe cases (if too much sparkling mineral water is consumed) it can cause an excess production of stomach acid, which can irritate the stomach lining and cause a peptic ulcer – a very rare but painful condition that causes bleeding in the stomach and requires immediate medical treatment.

It rots your teeth: TRUE AND FALSE

There’s nothing in plain sparkling mineral water that will rot your teeth… but there’s also nothing that will stop your teeth rotting. Australia began adding the mineral fluoride to its water supply in the 1960s as a means to prevent tooth decay and cavities, and now supplies fluoridated water to over 70 per cent of the population. Some bottled water won’t contain enough fluoride to help protect against tooth decay, so if you prefer sipping on the bubbled kind, just remember to mix it up with tap water every now and again.

The verdict:

There are two different things to take into account here: mineral water and carbonated mineral water. While carbonated mineral water won’t strip your bones of calcium (in fact, the opposite is true), it’s probably best to avoid if you have a history of stomach ulcers or suffer from flatulence. And while the minerals in mineral water have a beneficial effect on your blood pressure and bones, they may not have the fluoride levels necessary to protect you against tooth decay.

Our advice: hydrate with a mix of mineral water and tap water, enjoy the sparkling kind if you can tolerate it, and you can’t go wrong!

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Image: d_pham/Flickr