Are you crazy for La Croix? Do you, like the millions of Americans that catapulted the once-obscure seltzer brand to cult status this year, think its brightly packaged, occasionally citrusy effervescence somehow makes it a superior thirst quencher to regular H2O?
Well, you might be right.
The bubbles in a cold can of seltzer may actually trick your brain into thinking its thirst has been satisfied, according to a recent paper from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, published in the journal PLOS ONE. The study (hilariously titled “Oral Cooling and Carbonation Increase the Perception of Drinking and Thirst Quenching in Thirsty Adults”) points out that the feeling of thirst is psychological as well as physical: Sure, it makes sense that drinking makes us feel less dehydrated, but there are plenty of hydration-independent signals that tell the brain it’s no longer parched. The bubbles in your can of seltzer might be one of them.
After serving 28 water deprived adults a dry breakfast of toast and jelly, the researchers tested out the thirst-quenching properties of several different drinks. Sweet drinks, tart drinks, and bubbly drinks of differing temperatures were offered, and an analysis of how much regular water the volunteers drank afterward provided an indirect measure of how much their initial beverage actually satisfied their thirst.
Cold drinks did the trick, but cold, carbonated drinks did even better, thereby offering a partial explanation for why we’re so crazy for La Croix. Explain why this is the case is a different story: The researchers admit there is a lot scientists still don’t understand about the mechanics of thirst. Their conclusion, regardless, isn’t a surprising one, though it should be taken with a grain of salt — the study was funded by Suntory, a Japanese beer and whiskey brewing company with an extensive line of soft drinks.
La Croix, however, is no one-trick pony. As its unique success among other seltzer brands has shown, the cult brand has more than just its bubbles going for it — it’s riding the wave of sugar-bashing sentiment pouring into millennial mouths, its brilliant supply-withholding marketers give it the sheen of inaccessibility, and it’s incredibly Instagram-friendly, to boot. In other words, it’s quenching our thirst in more ways than one.