Carbonated beverages and gastrointestinal system: between myth and reality.
A wealth of information has appeared on non-scientific publications, some suggesting a positive effect of carbonated beverages on gastrointestinal diseases or health, and others a negative one. The evaluation of the properties of carbonated beverages mainly involves the carbon dioxide with which they are charged. Scientific evidence suggests that the main interactions between carbon dioxide and the gastrointestinal system occur in the oral cavity, the esophagus and the stomach. The impact of carbonation determines modification in terms of the mouthfeel of beverages and has a minor role in tooth erosion. Some surveys showed a weak association between carbonated beverages and gastroesophageal reflux disease; however, the methodology employed was often inadequate and, on the overall, the evidence available on this topic is contradictory. Influence on stomach function appears related to both mechanical and chemical effects. Symptoms related to a gastric mechanical distress appear only when drinking more than 300 ml of a carbonated fluid. In conclusion there is now sufficient scientific evidence to understand the physiological impact of carbonated beverages on the gastrointestinal system, while providing a basis for further investigation on the related pathophysiological aspects. However, 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. More epidemiological and mechanistic studies are also needed to evaluate the possible drawbacks of their consumption in terms of risk of tooth erosion and gastric distress.