Health & Wellness

What Is Kombucha? And Is It Really Good For You?

The drink is all the rage, but the health benefits may not live up to the hype

 

Photo: iStock/sveta_zarzamora.

A lot of people have been touting the health effects of kombucha, the bubbly sweet-and-sour drink made by fermenting tea. A quick Google search reveals that kombucha is supposed to help you manage Type 2 diabetes, reduce your risk for heart disease, and even prevent you from getting cancer, but is there any truth to the claims or is it all a marketing scheme?

The recently published results of a review of studies into kombucha’s purported health benefits suggest that we simply don‘t know. The results were published in February 2019 in the Annals of Epidemiology.

Researchers at the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri looked at 310 articles and failed to find even one controlled study analyzing kombucha’s effect on humans. “Nonetheless,” the study’s authors wrote, “significant commercial shelf space is now dedicated to kombucha products, and there is widespread belief that the products promote health.”

With no controlled tests on humans, whether kombucha will actually make you healthier remains up for debate. To date, only laboratory and animal studies have suggested that tea and the vitamins and other properties resulting from fermentation may support good health. Those studies combined found that kombucha has antioxidant and anti-tumour properties, and that it therefore may stimulate your immune system, which could slow down the development and progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. They also found that kombucha may help sustain normal central nervous system function, as well as liver and gastrointestinal functions.

However, the University of Missouri study’s authors stressed that it’s “critical that these assertions are tested in human clinical trials.”

If you decide to buy overpriced bottles of kombucha, do it when you want to treat yourself, but don’t expect miracles.