Is Kombucha Tea Worth the Big Bucks?
I used to drink a bottle of ginger flavored kombucha every weekday partly because of the taste, partly the supposed health benefits, and partly because I lived entirely too close to the health foods store. It seemed like a healthier option when I just didn't want water.
These days I only enjoy them once in a while because I moved further away from the health foods store and because of their exceedingly high price, at nearly $4 per bottle.
Even at a high price, I'll admit, after eight ounces of fizzy bliss I feel uplifted. But is it all in my head?
Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with sugar, bacteria, and yeast. Kombucha is a colony of bacteria and yeast that’s then added to sugar and tea and allowed to ferment. It results in a liquid that contains vinegar, B vitamins, and other chemical compounds. Its pancake-looking bacteria colony is called SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
But does kombucha tea have any proven health benefits? Its cited health benefits include immune health, cancer prevention, improved digestion, and liver function but there is currently no scientific evidence to back these claims up. However, the mild detoxifying effects could come from the organic acids like malic acid. The claims that it aids digestion could also be accurate because, according to Mother Jones, "GT's Synergy Kombucha, the leading brand on the market, claims its probiotic content includes S. boulardii and Lactobacillus, bacteria commonly found in yogurt." Nutritionist and herbalist Matthew Becker says, "[i]t has a great effect on normalizing the system, it crowds out bad bacteria, and it allows good bacteria to proliferate."
But this $150 million industry could pay a price for overstating such claims. In fact, there’s already a lawsuit against leading producer Millenium Products, makers of GT, for misleading advertising and even claims of health implications.
Mother Jones reports:
Plaintiff Gretchen Patch aims to 'put an end to the deceptive, misleading, unfair, and unlawful labeling and advertising of GT's' and claims she never would have bought the beverage if she had known its health benefits had not been scientifically proven.
There have been a few reports of upset stomach and allergic reactions, but all in all, so far it seems safe, especially if it's consumed moderately, like one serving (which is actually 4 ounces), a few times a week.
Though its health benefits have not been proven, believers can't get enough, even at $3 to $4 per bottle. However you can still make your own kombucha for a few pennies a serving.