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Kombucha: Pros and Cons

Kombucha, the trendiest fermented drink in the beverage aisle, has continued to rise in popularity over the past decade, with sales expected to reach $500 million by 2015. As with many other popular health products, an entire mythology has developed around it; some advocates claim kombucha is an elixir for a variety of bodily ills, while critics label it as a potentially dangerous fad. However, according to a recent article in The Washington Post, the reality is more nuanced— kombucha may have some health-promoting properties, although it is certainly not a cure-all. Here are some things that can be said about kombucha:

  • There have been few, if any, clinical trials studying the effects of kombucha on humans. For that reason, there is not a lot of direct evidence linking kombucha to any particular health benefits.
  • Nevertheless, kombucha is a probiotic beverage (because it is made with live bacteria and yeasts) that contains B vitamins and antioxidants. Certain types of probiotics have been shown to help with irritable bowel syndrome and a number of other conditions.
  • Pasteurization kills probiotic microorganisms. For some groups, such as children, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems, buying pasteurized kombucha might be the way to go in order to minimize the risk of contamination. Otherwise, buying unpasteurized kombucha from a reputable manufacturer is a good strategy to ensure the presence of live cultures.
  • The fermentation process does produce some alcohol. By law, kombucha products must contain less than .5% alcohol content (a trace amount). However, kombucha does have the potential to become more alcoholic, especially when brewed at home.

Source: The Washington Post

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