The owner of a family business that produces soda water, Laszlo Kiss fills siphon bottles at the company's workshop on August 23, 2018 in the center of Budapest. ( AFP / ATTILA KISBENEDEK)

Thai posts misleadingly tout unproven 'health benefits' of carbonated water

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Multiple posts on social media in Thailand claim several health benefits of carbonated water, including treating constipation and heart disease. Comments on the posts indicated some social media users were misled by the claim. However, health experts told AFP there was insufficient evidence that carbonated water can cure any existing health condition.

The claim -- which appears in a Thai-language infographic -- was shared here on Facebook on January 2, 2022.

It translates to English as: "How does soda water benefit your health?

"Some people are concerned with the health risks of soda water. In this infographic, we only talk about soda water which does not include any sugar, which is carbonated water. Here are its health benefits:

"Carbonated water treats constipation -- research found out that drinking soda can help with defecation. It is better than water.

"Carbonated water treats flatulence -- it will help your digestive system works better.

"Carbonated water helps refresh and hydrate your body -- for those of you who don't like water. You can drink soda water too.

"Carbonated water reduces heart diseases and balances pH conditions."

Screenshot of the misleading posts captured on January 26, 2022

It credits the advice to Roowai, a health and lifestyle website.

A similar claim was also shared on Roowai's website and in a video on YouTube that was viewed more than 20,000 times.

It was also shared in Facebook posts here and here

Comments on the misleading post indicated some social media users may have been misled by the claim.

One user wrote: "I usually don't drink carbonated water that much, but I will from now on."

"It's healthy, plus it tastes good," another commented. 

The claims are misleading, according to health experts.

Constipation claim

"There is insufficient evidence to conclude that carbonated water actually treats constipation," Dr Siam Sirinthornpanya, a gastroenterologist at Thailand's Rajavithi Hospital told AFP on January 25, 2022.

"The benefits of [drinking] it are still unclear."

While some studies have assessed the efficacy of carbonated water in treating constipation, they were done with small sample sizes and the research is outdated, Siam added.

"You should not use the drink as a medicine to cure [the disease]", he said. 

This study by academics at the University of Naples examined the effects of carbonated water on the gastrointestinal system and found the available evidence was "contradictory".

"More studies are needed, particularly intervention trials, to support any claim on the possible beneficial effects of carbonated beverages on the gastrointestinal system, and clarify how they affect digestion," it reads.

Thipradee Kongsuwan, a nutritionist at Thailand's Bureau of Nutrition which operates under the Ministry of Public Health, also said that the research on carbonated drinks on constipation "has no valid information confirmed".

"There is not enough evidence to support this claim," she told AFP on January 26, 2022.

Siam and Thiparadee also said there was insufficient evidence to prove that carbonated water helps with flatulence.

Health experts recommend drinking still water instead of carbonated drinks, warning that excessive consumption of the latter could cause or exacerbate existing health problems.

"There is nothing wrong if you want to drink sparkling water. But you need to drink it moderately," Thiparadee said.

Siam said patients with certain conditions should avoid drinking fizzy drinks as they contain acid.

"Carbonated drink includes more acid than still water, those with gastritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux should avoid drinking it as they experience worse symptoms," he said.

Heart disease

The claim that carbonated water reduces the risks of heart disease is not supported by any scientific evidence, Thiparadee told AFP.

Thiparadee said that carbonated water was also not proven to balance pH conditions within human bodies.

"Our body has its natural function to balance the pH conditions in our body. Carbonated water certainly does not help in any way," she added.