Kombucha (or kombucha tea) has become a popular beverage in recent years. You can choose from various branded kombucha drinks that fill refrigerated shelves at many grocery stores.
It might seem like a new craze, but kombucha has a much longer history. The beverage originated in China in 220 BC, eventually reaching Germany, Russia, and the rest of the world.
Kombucha is made by adding a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) to sweetened green or black tea, before leaving it to ferment at room temperature. The result is a probiotic drink that’s sour and mildly fizzy.
People drink kombucha tea for its claimed health benefits, including digestion, inflammation, and a reduced risk of cancer. However, additional research is needed to support its role in these health benefits.
One cup (8 ounces) of regular kombucha contains:
Kombucha tea contains many B vitamins, including:
Thiamine is necessary for supporting basic cell function and turning food into energy. Riboflavin plays a role in the growth, development, and function of cells in the body.
A single serving of kombucha tea provides well over 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12. The nutrient keeps your nerves and blood cells healthy, helping to prevent megaloblastic anemia. This type of anemia is a rare blood disorder that’s characterized by unusually large and abnormal red blood cells (megaloblasts).
Potential Health Benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha tea is rich in vitamins and antioxidants, but the drink may also present some risks.
Here are some potential health benefits of kombucha:
Digestive Health Improvement
During the fermentation process, a large number of bacteria grow in kombucha. The latter includes several strains of lactic acid bacteria, which may have probiotic properties that can help to improve digestive health and treat digestive issues.
Studies done on rats consistently show that drinking kombucha regularly reduces liver toxicity. Further research with human participants may help us to fully understand the benefits that kombucha may provide people with liver disease.
One of the byproducts of kombucha fermentation is acetic acid, which is also present in vinegar. Acetic acid can kill many different types of harmful bacteria. Kombucha made from green or black tea (which contains polyphenols, also known as antioxidant-rich micronutrients) may be particularly effective against Candida yeasts. The exact benefits of these properties are still unclear.
Type 2 Diabetes Management
Kombucha made from green tea may help to manage or prevent type 2 diabetes. Drinking green tea may lead to reduced blood sugar levels. Green tea may even reduce your risk of diabetes.
A study using rats showed that kombucha helped to slow the digestion of carbohydrates, reduced blood sugar levels, and improved the function of the rats’ livers and kidneys. More research will help determine if these specific benefits also apply to humans.
Cancer Risk Reduction
Test-tube studies show that kombucha may help to prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells. However, proving that kombucha offers anti-cancer properties requires further studies.
Weight Loss Promotion
Studies show that individuals who drink green tea burn more calories and lose more weight than those who don’t. Kombucha made with green tea may provide similar benefits.
Potential Risks of Kombucha
Despite the many potential health benefits of kombucha, the beverage also has a few risks. Consider the following before drinking kombucha tea:
Kombucha contains live bacteria that can be harmful during pregnancy. It’s also unpasteurized and may contain alcohol. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to avoid the tea, or at least talk with your doctor before drinking it.
Over Fermentation or Contamination
Brewing kombucha at home comes with some risks. For instance, it may over-ferment. Contamination can also be an issue because home environments typically are not sterile.
Nutrition Issues for People with Diabetes
Many kombucha drinks have a lot of added sugar, which helps to make them taste better. Too much sugar, however, can cause problems for people with diabetes. Added sugars may also increase diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, and heart disease risks.