Carbonated drinks come under different names. Soda pop, soda or pop, coke, fizzy drinks or minerals as in Ireland, their origin is the same. They are all soft drinks made by impregnating distilled water with carbon dioxide to give them their effervescent quality. This was first done in the 1770s by an Englishman named Joseph Priestly when he held a bowl of water above a beer vat at a local brewery in Leeds, England. Priestly liked the taste of the water and offered it to his friends.

Priestly’s drink was commercialized in 1807 by Benjamin Silliman, a Yale University chemistry professor. Later, sweetened carbonated drinks flavored with lemon-lime, orange and grape flavors became popular. Soon soda fountains were springing up everywhere. In 1886 John S. Pemberton, an Atlanta druggist added kola nut to cocoa extract as a cure for his hangover, and Coca Cola was born. Today Coca Cola or Coke as it is popularly called is sold all over the world, bringing in billions of dollars and employing tons of sugar in its manufacture.

Carbonated drinks are said to have certain healing properties, like aiding digestion and calming nerves. The term seltzer was once used to refer to effervescent mineral water that came from village springs in Germany. Today, filtered tap water is called by that name as well as a popular antacid. In a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, twenty-one people suffering from dyspepsia, indigestion and constipation were randomly selected to drink at least 1.5 liters of either carbonated or tap water for 15 days or to the end of the 30 day trial.

At the end of the trial, 8 of the ten people who drank the carbonated water showed marked improvement in their dyspepsia scores, two had no change and one worsened. From the eleven who drank tap water, seven worsened and four improved. Constipation scores also improved for eight people and worsened for two in the carbonated water group, while five people improved in the tap water group and six worsened. The carbonated water used in this study had significantly more carbon dioxide than ordinary tap water as well as higher levels of minerals, including calcium.

Many carbonated drinks contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and nutrasweet. These are added to diet soft drinks instead of sugar in order to reduce the amount of calories found in these drinks. Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke have added these sweeteners to their low-calorie line in order to fulfill the demands of a more health conscious public. However, in recent times aspartame has been reported to be the cause of a multiplicity of ailments ranging from headaches and memory loss to cancer. In addition, aspartame and nutrasweet are said to actually contribute to obesity. Carbonated drinks may have some benefits, but we need to be wary of the additives they contain.