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Given the news out there about how bad diet sodas are for you, it's not surprising that so many people have turned to LaCroix calorie-free sparkling water as an alternative — but is LaCroix bad for you, too? The beverage is currently facing a class-action lawsuit that alleges LaCroix isn't as "all-natural" as it claims to be.
Beaumont Costales is the law firm suing Natural Beverage Corporation, LaCroix's parent company. In a statement, lawyers from the firm wrote, "Testing reveals that LaCroix contains a number of artificial ingredients... LaCroix in fact contains ingredients that have been identified by the Food and Drug Administration as synthetic. These chemicals include limonene, which can cause kidney toxicity and tumors; linalool propionate, which is used to treat cancer; and linalool, which is used in cockroach insecticide."
As alarming as that sounds — seriously, cockroach insecticide? — this lawsuit isn't enough reason to clear out your fridge. When the context in which these ingredients are used, it becomes clear that these hard-to-pronounce compounds aren't nearly as terrifying as Beaumont Costales would have you believe.
Let's start with the first claim: Limonene causes cancer and kidney problems. According to PubChem, the National Center for Biotechnology Information's open database of chemicals, limonene is a "major component of the oil extracted from citrus peels with potential chemopreventive and antitumor activities." Basically, limonene could be capable of slowing or averting the development of cancer.
It's likely that Beaumont Costales asserted that limonene could cause tumors because it has — in male rats. These results, which were generated by studies carried out in the early 1990s, have never been reproduced in humans. In fact, PubChem clearly states, "There is inadequate evidence in humans for the carcinogenicity of d-limonene." What's more, a study from October 2012 published in the Journal of Cancer Therapy determined that it was totally safe for women to apply "high levels" of massage oils containing limonene.
Before we tackle linalool propionate, let's talk about linalool. It's a naturally occurring chemical that's found in many flowers and spices, according to PubChem. Linalool is a popular flavoring agent, but it's also found in face washes and acne products. Though Beaumont Costales is right that linalool is found in insecticides, that doesn't mean it isn't safe for humans. Panera got in trouble for a similar situation in which it had asserted that sodium benzoate — a substance found in fireworks — shouldn't be in food. Of course, they forgot to mention that sodium benzoate is also a popular food preservative and that it naturally exists in cranberries. The only issue with linalool, PubChem reports, is that it may be a mild eye and skin irritant.
As for linalool propionate, also known as linalyl propionate, it's derived from ginger and lavender and is a common flavoring agent and perfume ingredient, PubChem says. A June 2012 study published in the journal Planta Medica found that linalyl propionate inhibited the growth of prostate cancer cells — which makes the Beaumont Costales argument against linalyl propionate seem like weak rationalization.
Keep in mind that these three chemicals are found in foods beyond just LaCroix sparkling water. “It is very unlikely these naturally occurring substances pose a health risk when consumed at levels usually found in foods,” says Roger Clemens, an adjunct professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Southern California. “If there were a health risk, then citrus juices and spices, such as curry, would not be consumed or be part of the commodity market.”
Is LaCroix bad for your teeth?
One issue that could arise due to drinking too much LaCroix, however, is erosion of the enamel on your teeth. An April 2016 study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association came up with a scale for measuring the strength of a drink. Beverages with a pH below 3.0 were considered "extremely errosive," a pH between 3.0 and 3.99 was labeled "errosive," and anything above a pH of 4.0 was "minimally errosive." In a different study, a McGill researcher tested the pH levels of nine different seltzer waters (LaCroix was not one of them), and found that cold seltzer had a lower pH than warm seltzer. All but one of the brands she looked at had a pH of 4.0 or higher when it was cold, which means you don't have to freak out about your teeth disintegrating the moment a drop of fizzy water touches your lips. However, seltzer water should not be a replacement for regular still water.
If you were worried you'd have to give up your weekly LaCroix treat, don't fret! You can still enjoy that pamplemousse beverage (or whatever your favorite flavor is) and feel good about your choices. We'll cheers to that!