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How healthy is carbonated water?

Carbonated water comes in a growing range of flavors and sweetness options, and some choices are better for you than others
Is carbonated water a healthy option? 01:21

Carbonated water is a popular option for many consumers looking for a a healthier option than soda and other sugary beverages. Sales have doubled in the U.S. over the past five years and carbonated water is now a one and a half billion dollar business, according to the latest industry research from Euromonitor.

But just how healthy is it? Despina Hyde, a registered dietician at NYU Langone Medical Center, warns that not all carbonated water beverages are the same when it comes to your diet and health. She emphasizes the need to read the nutrition labels on the bottles.

"The best bet is to choose something without any sweeteners at all," she told CBS News.

Natural or artificial sweeteners, she said, are often found in tonic and flavored sparkling waters. Some varieties have added sugar and a surprising number of calories, and even those with artificial sweeteners may still contribute to weight gain.

"While they still don't have calories or sugar, they may be affecting our taste buds, our satiety or hunger later in the day," Hyde said.

Even without added ingredients, Hyde said carbonated water may pose a slight risk to people with irritable bowel syndrome because it can cause bloating.

But overall, seltzer or club soda are both healthier choices than sugary sodas. "We're drinking too many calories and so finding these alternatives is great," Hyde said.

One common misconception is that drinking carbonated water prevents the body from absorbing calcium, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. But experts say this notion is unfounded. The idea stems from a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found a connection between carbonated cola drinks and lower bone mineral density. But the research did not show the same association with carbonated water.

Drinking plain water is still the healthiest -- and least expensive -- way to quench your thirst. To add additional flavor, Hyde recommends infusing regular water with your favorite fruit.

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