Could fizzy water be making you fat?

Is carbonated water thwarting your weight loss regime?

Healthy Eating | Healthy Ageing

asktheexpert
Sonia Chartier
@AVogel_ca


26 July 2018

What’s the big deal about water?

We know that drinking enough water is incredibly important for a number of key bodily functions. Keeping your bowels moving and your skin glowing are more obvious reasons, but we also know that dehydration can affect one’s urinary tract, muscles and joints, mood, PMS symptoms, enlarged prostate symptoms, cognitive functions, circulation, and menopause symptoms—and that just about covers everything! 

Good water intake is pivotal for a whole number of physical and biological processes, and upping your intake can really make a difference to how you look and feel. If you’ve tuned into any of our blogs or articles here at A.Vogel before, you’ll have noticed we often recommend aiming to drink 1.5 L of plain, still water daily. People often ask if it really needs to be ‘plain’ or ‘still.’ And my response is, yes! With the exception of adding some herbs or fruit perhaps, but on the whole—yes.

Why?

First, people often ask if their daily tea or coffee counts as water intake. The answer is a resounding no. These drinks are loaded with caffeine—especially coffee and, to a lesser extent, even some of the healthier herbal teas—which means they can act as a mild diuretic. In addition, caffeine can have adverse effects on the nervous system, making one feel more jittery or anxious and basically working against some of the benefits that water can bring. So be sure to keep your water intake up in addition to any other drinks you might have during the day.

Next, what about flavoured waters or diluting juice? Many of these are loaded with sugar so they are definitely ones to watch, and even those made with artificial sweeteners aren’t much better. Research suggests that even artificial sweetness could impact your blood sugar, which can have a domino effect on your blood sugar levels and appetite1, so again these aren’t ideal. 

And finally what about carbonated or fizzy water? These are still just water so it shouldn’t make a difference, right? Not exactly.  Let’s explore this in a little more detail in light of some new research...

What does the research say?

"BBC’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor", recently collaborated with Aston University in Birmingham to investigate whether or not fizzy water could have negative effects on your waistline.

The study involved fasted participants being given equal quantities of food before testing the effects of four different drinks on their appetites. The drinks included a fizzy soft drink, a flat soft drink, fizzy water and flat water. Blood samples were taken to look at ghrelin levels—the hormone that signals hunger in the body—and food diaries for the period afterward were analyzed.

Results showed that having a fizzy soft drink compared to a flat alternative increased ghrelin levels by a whopping 50%! The results from the different types of water weren’t quite so marked but there was still a trend toward the same pattern. This increase in the hunger hormone translated into more calories being consumed afterward, as expected. Increases of as much as 120 calories were noted after the fizzy drink option versus the flat variety. That’s equivalent to a medium-sized banana or half a sandwich, so quite a substantial difference!

What mechanisms could be involved?

Although we’ve always suspected that plain water is preferable to fizzy water, here, based on this new research, are some possible mechanisms explaining what might be going on:

It’s all the extra gas: We always say that if you suffer from bloating, adding extra gas in the form of carbonated drinks isn’t likely to help. However, it’s also possible that the changing pressure in the stomach, as a result of the gas, could potentially affect ghrelin and our hunger levels.

It’s the carbon dioxide: Could something be happening on a chemical level? The carbon dioxide or CO2 found in fizzy water could also potentially have an effect and somehow cause receptor cells in the stomach to release ghrelin.

So, what’s my advice going forward?

In the past it has been suggested that carbonated drinks might help keep us feeling fuller for longer, so it can be confusing. But for me, something just didn’t ring true. After all, these drinks aren’t natural and many years ago, carbonated drinks didn’t exist. So it isn’t hard to believe that they might have some sort of adverse effect—like so many other unnatural ingredients!

However, that said, only a handful of studies have suggested that carbonated drinks may significantly affect appetite and calorie intake, so it’s still early days. But why take the risk? Here’s my advice: 

  • Stick to still water and limit the carbonated varieties as much as possible
  • Sip on 1.5 – 2 L of plain, still water throughout the day. Ensure the water isn’t ice cold and don’t guzzle it with your meals or it may adversely affect your digestion
  • Add a handful of fruit, some fragrant herbs or a splash of Molkosan Berry now and again if you want to jazz up your water instead of struggling with the plain taste 

Try this tasty lemon, mint and cucumber combination for some inspiration:Add all ingredients to a large jug and allow to steep overnight in the fridge to release all the flavours:

  • 3 litres water
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 10 - 12 mint leaves!

Reference

Yang, Q. Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Yale J Biol Med., 2010, 83(2) (101-108)

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