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Carbonation comes from dissolving carbon dioxide in water, a process also used for sparkling waters as well as soft drinks. In addition to the pleasing sensory effect, carbonation is beneficial -- it keeps soft drinks safe from bacteria and microbes.
We know the results of carbonation when a beverage is opened or poured, but what about inside the body?
The carbon dioxide (CO2) in a carbonated beverage is readily and rapidly absorbed through the wall of the gastrointestinal system. But not all of the CO2 originally in the drink actually gets to the stomach. Some is lost in the fizz of opening the can or bottle, and some may combine with swallowed air to cause a belch.
The truth is, most CO2 in the beverage typically doesn't reach the digestive tract. The amount that does arrive there is quickly absorbed. In the process, it also enhances the absorption of the liquid that contains it, which causes the gastrointestinal tract to empty at a faster than usual rate. This helps to account for the long-time belief, recorded as early as 1914, that carbonation can promote digestion and ease nausea.
Carried to the lungs
The absorbed CO2 goes into the bloodstream, where most of it is carried to the lungs for exhalation. The CO2 is transported in one of three ways. Approximately 10 percent dissolves in the blood. About 20 percent becomes bound to hemoglobin. The rest, roughly 70 percent, is carried by red blood cells in the form of bicarbonate, which occurs when CO2 combines with water contained in the red blood cells.
Normal organic processes
Most of the CO2 in our blood is produced not by carbonated beverages, but by the body's conversion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy. In other words, having CO2 moving through the blood is a routine metabolic action.
When we exercise, we can feel the effects of CO2 in our bloodstream. As your workout builds in intensity, the level of CO2 in your blood rises because you are generating more energy. Your respiratory system responds by eliminating more CO2 and taking in more oxygen -- which you experience as breathing harder.
Whether exercising or at rest, a healthy body's natural chemical reactions efficiently remove carbon dioxide from the blood. This maintains a normal acid/base balance. Carbonation does not raise the acid level of the blood and cannot dissolve bone.
Nor does carbonation have any impact on the lumpy-appearing fat sometimes called "cellulite," which is body fat pulled tight by the connective tissue that attaches skin to underlying muscle. Myths to the contrary are just that -- myths.
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