It seems that every time a person on a weight loss diet turns around, there’s yet another food item that is off limits. Many dieters know that traditional soft drinks, such as carbonated, sweetened and diet drinks, have been found to promote weight gain–therefore, zero-calorie carbonated beverages have become very popular. These drinks come in a variety of flavors, and variations–such as sparking water, mineral water, and more. But, a recent study has found that even the unsweetened versions of carbonated water may contribute to weight gain.

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“Dieters are looking for ways to cut calories to promote weight loss,” explains Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant. “However, many dieters don’t want to give up their favorite taste and flavors, so they look to these artificially sweetened beverages to ‘sweeten’ their day and feel less deprived.” Many dieters are trying to get in the recommended amount of daily water intake, but they don’t like the taste of plain water, Goodson adds.

But, are these so called, “naturally flavored” carbonated beverages helpful for those who are trying to lose weight? A recent study, published in Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, says that these beverages are not recommended as part a healthy weight loss diet.

According to the experts, it’s difficult to know for sure what the ingredients are in many of these flavored drinks. The label may read, “natural flavors,” which can include anything from essential oils to fruit extracts—but it’s not crystal clear exactly, what comprises the natural flavor component of these drinks.

Some experts feel that drinking these carbonated beverages, may be a better alternative to conventional sweetened or diet soft drinks. But, many versions of flavored carbonated water also use artificial sweeteners—which are controversial for overall health and wellness.

“With artificially sweetened beverages, there are no calories, which can make them a good option for flavor, if you are OK with artificial sweeteners,” says Goodson. Some research studies show that artificially sweetened beverages are safe, but many nutritional experts disagree.

Carbonation and Weight Gain

Another aspect to consider, when it comes to sparkling water, is the carbonation component of the drink. According to recent research, published in the journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice, carbonated water was found to raise the level of a hormone—called ghrelin– which increases the appetite. Ghrelin is also referred to as the hunger hormone. Carbonated beverage drinkers were found to have 6 times more ghrelin than those who drank regular water, and 3 times more, than individuals who drank non-carbonated beverages.

“Here, we show that rats consuming gaseous [carbonated] beverages over a period of around 1-year-gain weight at a faster rate than controls on regular degassed carbonated beverage or tap water,” said the study authors. “This is due to elevated levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and thus greater food intake in rats drinking carbonated drinks compared to control rats [those that drank uncarbonated water].”

Conclusion

The study results indicate that carbon dioxide–in carbonated beverages—plays a major role in weight gain and may lead to obesity.

Goodman recommends alternatives, such as unsweetened tea and fruit-infused water. Another recommendation from Goodman for those who want electrolytes “without the bubbles,” is to try drinking coconut water.

Sources

1. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice:
https://www.obesityresearchclinicalpractice.com/article/S1871-403X(17)30006-6/fulltext

2. Amy Goodson:
http://amygoodsonrd.com/