I have a coworker who says that drinking soda leads to kidney problems. I did some Googling and while I found a lot of blogs and message board posts saying such, the only credible link I found was this paper, Carbonated beverages and chronic kidney disease, whose abstract reads:

Drinking 2 or more colas per day was associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease. Results were the same for regular colas and artificially sweetened colas. Noncola carbonated beverages were not associated with chronic kidney disease. These preliminary results suggest that cola consumption may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease.

I can't read the entire paper, but the abstract makes it sound as if the risk lies more in cola consumption than carbonated water consumption.

Is there a scientific consensus on the risks posed by consumption of carbonated water?

  • 2
    The conclusion of the study you cite states that "These preliminary results suggest that cola consumption may increase the risk of chronic kidney disease." You may want to change your question, as the study tends to refer mostly to cola beverages, not simply carbonated water. Or perhaps I read it wrong, are you asking about the risks of carbonated water vs cola beverages? – Monkey Tuesday Apr 4 '11 at 22:00
  • 1
    @Monkey Tuesday: I expounded on my question a bit. Hope this helps. – Scott Mitchell Apr 4 '11 at 22:53
  • @scott Mitchell: Much better this way. – Monkey Tuesday Apr 4 '11 at 23:29
  • 1
    @Scott - can you clarify what you mean by soda. Here in the UK it would mean a carbonated but unflavoured drink (ie carbonated water) and generally considered healthy, whereas cola (caffeinated, flavoured carbonated water) is generally considered unhealthy. – Rory Alsop Apr 5 '11 at 8:39
  • 1
    I've reduced the scope of your claim to the original. If you want to know more, open another question (one claim per question). – Sklivvz Apr 5 '11 at 19:51

First, regarding general health effects of carbonation, in their 1992 paper Lambert et al compare re-hydration after exercise for carbonated and non carbonated beverages. The paper measures blood plasma levels prior to dehydration and after the administration of test solutions concluding;

A major finding of this investigation was that fluid replacement was similar in the carbonated and non-carbonated treatments. ... the similar plasma volume and total plasma protein values at all time points suggest that beverage carbonation did not measurably alter the availability of ingested fluid.

Also, Cuomo et al investigate the effects of carbonation on digestion, concluding

In patients complaining of functional dyspepsia and constipation, carbonated water increases satiety and improves dyspepsia, constipation and gallbladder emptying.

Which may explain why many people use sugarless carbonated beverages (such as sprite) to calm upset stomachs.

Also, a particularly interesting paper by Simons et al investigates the oral sensation associated with carbonated beverages, arguing

carbonated water excites lingual nociceptors via a carbonic anhydrase-dependent process, in turn exciting neurons in Vc that are presumably involved in signaling oral irritant sensations.

Regarding kidney function, beverages with high fructose content may pose a risk whether carbonated or not. Studying rats, Gersch et al find an association between fructose and kidney problems.

Next, El-Badrawy et al touch on a distinction between 'cola' and 'un-cola' beverages, finding histopathological effects (I needed a quick wikipedia to understand this refers broadly to tissue damage) from colored soft drinks only.

The kidney of rats consuming dark color soft drink showed congestion of interlobular homogenous proteinaceaus casts in some renal tubules (Pict.7). While the kidney of rats consuming orange color showed the previous changes with congestion of the glomerular tufts (Pict. 8). Kidney of rats consuming colorless soft drink revealed no histopathological changes (Pict. 9), meanwhile, kidney of rats consuming mixed soft drink showed vacuolation of endothelial lining the glomerular tuft together with necrobiotic changes of epithelial lining of some renal tubules (Pict .10).

Like the original poster, I had trouble finding a credible source clearly attributing health impacts to one or more ingredients in soda individually. Many papers unequivocally argue soft drinks are harmful to health generally, but parsing out the effect of carbonation seems more difficult.

Even in a randomized setting, isolating the effect of one substance consumed in tandem with many others poses a challenge. Also, though similar in many ways, humans and rats differ. With these caveats in mind, the research outlined above seems to suggest the primary health risk associated with cola may be attributed to sugar content. That said, none of the literature I reviewed affirmed the negative, i.e. ``carbonated water does not impair kidney function''.

  • 1
    Justin, my presumption has always been that the sugar in cola is the main detriment, but the study I cited found that "results were the same for regular colas and artificially sweetened colas," which is what piqued my interest in this question. – Scott Mitchell Apr 5 '11 at 21:18
  • 1
    @StriplingWarrior - no, i didnt mean to imply it was. I just remember being told to drink it every time I stayed home sick from school. Sprite and saltines. @Scott I agree. I wish I could have found something directly answering your question. I'm interested in the answer as well, and had done some reading prior to seeing your question. I hope someone else fills in the gaps. – justin cress Apr 5 '11 at 22:40
  • Anyway both of them are bad for the teeth. – JinSnow Jul 21 '15 at 9:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .