Kombucha’s health claims overhyped

Kombucha on sale at PCC West Campus Cafeteria

By ELLIANA KOPUT

As the ecological well-being of the earth we know and love continues to suffer, so inversely grows our individual will to start living mindfully. 

In considering the implications of poor environmental health, many are taking rides in the bandwagon down food trend lane. 

On this issue’s analysis of current food fads, let us take a moment to consider the current craze among the streets, sheets and community college cafeterias … kombucha tea. 

When analyzing the facts, it is clear that kombucha is not worth the hype. It is, however, a tasty substitute for soda or other popular drinks. 

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage known to contain active cultures and bacteria. The beverage produces probiotic benefits, bacteria eradication and antioxidant uptake. Basically, kombucha claims its fame as the ultimate super drink, although many disagree. 

Kombucha is made by combining yeast, sugar, and black or green tea and set aside to ferment. The process is similar to those of other bubbly beverages we may know and enjoy. Good bacteria is promoted by the presence of probiotics in the drink. These allow for the maintenance of gut flora and digestive functions. Antioxidants, known to fight off risky free radicals, are also found in kombucha. 

Women’s health magazines continue to advertise, teas and other excessively priced, magic antioxidant and probiotic foods. But when all is said and done, is any of this actually good for you? Or is it just not “as bad” as the typical staples of the American diet, enough so to be considered conversely healthy. 

Brenda Holzer is an instructor of food science and nutrition at Pima Community College. She sat down to explain the importance of fulfilling the recommended dietary allowance of probiotics and antioxidants. 

“No (you couldn’t fulfill your daily needs); you would need more than just what’s in a container of kombucha,” Holzer said. “Even if you were to drink it every day, you would still need to get your antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. There are certain antioxidants that are actual nutrients your body needs like Vitamin E and C, solinum, you can get those through food items.”

For comparison, I took a look at the nutrition facts of my personal favorite, KeVita brand pineapple peach kombucha. It claims that it is “not a significant source of other nutrients,” but it does list “bacillus coagulans lactospore mtcc 5856” as an ingredient. 

“LactoSpore” is a commercially produced probiotic and lactic acid ingredient. The nutrition label does not provide a measurement of the amount of LactoSpore in the kombucha, and it is not as simple as being prescribed a finite recommendation of consumption. 

According to Lactospore.com: “The human digestive tract contains about 400 different bacterial species that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. And lactic acid producing bacteria are the largest inhabitant group amongst all.”

It is nearly impossible to tell how effective drinking this product on a regular basis would be, even in conjunction with other probiotic- and antioxidant-rich foods. 

Health.Harvard.edu states: “The recommended doses range from 1 billion to 10 billion colony-forming units — the amount contained in a capsule (of probiotic supplement) or two — several days per week.” 

In cases like nutrition investigations, ambiguity is in the eye of the beholder. However, I am certain that average, non-scientist civilians would have trouble measuring out colony-forming units for breakfast at their kitchen counter each morning; 1-10 billion is quite the range comparatively. 

“There’s a lot of really interesting studies with the overall gut microbiome and how much it really plays a role with your overall health,” Holzer said. “Ideally, the more good bacteria you have in your gut, the more efficient it will be. You can digest better, absorb nutrients, fight bad bacteria, improve bowel movements.

“However, if you were somebody that didn’t do kombucha, but you drank green tea all the time, you’d still get the same results. The only thing you wouldn’t get by drinking just green tea would be the probiotics.” 

KeVita Kombucha nutrition facts

 

So we understand that we require fruits and vegetables to neutralize free radicals, benefit good bacteria, and maintain gut health for an overall improved human experience. Kombucha, on the other hand, seems to rip of its predecessor, green tea. Green tea contains the same antioxidants at a fraction of the cost. 

For the average price of $4 per two-serving bottle of KeVita Kombucha, one could purchase a pack of 20 Tazo Green Zen tea bags. 

Tazo Green Zen tea nutrition facts

I conclude in advising you to live your best life and try trendy tea products at your own discretion. For a whopping $3.99 a bottle (two servings), KeVita Kombucha can be purchased in the Pima College cafeterias. However, consider the amount of produce you could invest that money into instead.

One thought on “Kombucha’s health claims overhyped”

  1. Correction: Kombucha is not “made by combining yeast, sugar, and black or green tea and set aside to ferment.” The key ingredient is known as a SCOBY which is an abbreviation for a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. This is nothing like the yeast used in bread and pastry. (See http://bit.ly/34qhewk).

    While it’s true that plain green tea has beneficial antioxidants, kombucha has many other benefits, primarily related to “gut health”. Kombucha is a fermented food, much like cultured yogurt, cheese, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.

    In addition to KeVita, there are many excellent brands that Pima students can find at Tucson Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Food Conspiracy Co-ops.

    It’s also quite easy to ferment your own kombucha for pennies a bottle.

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