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Kombucha: Is It Good for You?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 24, 2020

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 it’s 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.

Nutrition Information

One cup (8 ounces) of regular kombucha contains:

  • Calories: 30 
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 4 grams

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).

The tea also contains a decent amount of vitamin C as well as other antioxidants.

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.  

Liver ToxicityReduction

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.  

Antimicrobial Properties

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:

Pregnancy Concerns

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.

Potential Dental Issues

Kombucha tea is an acidic beverage, which can pose problems for your teeth. Acidic drinks weaken tooth enamel and increase the risk of discoloration.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Archives of Internal Medicine: “Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Tea Consumption in Relation to Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.”

Biomedical and Environmental Sciences: “Studies on Toxicity, Anti-Stress, and Hepato-Protective Properties of Kombucha Tea.”

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Hypoglycemic and Antilipidemic Properties of Kombucha Tea in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Rats.”

Food Technology & Biotechnology: “Antioxidant and Antibacterial Activity of the Beverage Obtained by Fermentation of Sweetened Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis L.) Tea with Symbiotic Consortium of Bacteria and Yeasts.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Thiamine-Vitamin B1.”

Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: “Kombucha Fermentation and Its Antimicrobial Activity.”

Journal of B.O.UN.: Official Journal of the Balkan Union of Oncology: “Antiproliferative and Antimicrobial Activity of Traditional Kombucha and Satureja montana L. Kombucha.”

Journal of Food Biochemistry: “Antibacterial and Antifungal Activities of Black and Green Kombucha Teas.”

Journal of Food Science: “Understanding Kombucha Tea Fermentation: A Review.”

Journal of the Endocrine Society: “Frequent Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and the Onset of Cardiometabolic Diseases: Cause for Concern?”

National Institutes of Health: “Riboflavin: Fact Sheet for Consumers.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vitamin B12: Fact Sheet for Consumers.”

Physiology & Behavior: “Effectiveness of Green Tea on Weight Reduction in Obese Thais: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.”

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Effect of Green Tea on Glucose Control and Insulin Sensitivity: A Meta-Analysis of 17 Randomized Controlled Trials.”

Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology: “Use of Probiotics in Gastrointestinal Disorders: What to Recommend?”

USDA Food Data Central: “Original Kombucha.”

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