Good Morning readers, I hope everyone had a spectacular year! Ciencia en Arroz y Habichuelas has come back from a brief hiatus. During my vacations, I have heard a lot about a miracle drink that helps to lose weight and improve health. As soon as I heard this, I manage to do one reaction (Figure 1). I said, "Right in time to start the new years with the right foot". My first question was "How does it work?" Here we explain in Arroz y Habichuelas.
What is Kombucha Tea?
The name "Kombucha" comes from the Japanese words (Kombu) meaning seaweed and (Cha) which means tea. Tiit has been used since 220 B.C.E. in China but we do not know where it originated exactly. Kombucha is also known under the of "mushroom tea". Even though it contains mushroom in the name, this beverage is not a mushroom. The drink contains a symbiotic community (interaction among organisms) of bacteria and yeast known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This is similar to a pancake (Figure 2) which is similar to a structure of a mushroom and from there its name. During the process of fermentation different acids are generated among them, acetic acid (mayor component in vinegar) and other compounds.
Benefits attributed to Kombucha
Most of the people that drink Kombucha do so for its health benefits. Among the claimed benefits are probiotics, vitamins, and properties that serve against the following diseases: AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer, among others. These benefits have been extrapolated from different studies performed in animals where it has been implied that it has antioxidant properties, reduces pain, and improves sleep. However, no study has been performed to corroborate these claims in humans.
Atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries): No scientific evidence to back up this claim
Cancer treatment: Studies in animals show antioxidant effects, but studies in humans are lacking.
Diabetes: No scientific evidence exists to support its use in humans
AIDS: No evidence exists to support its use in humans
Even though there is a total lack of studies to back the multiple claims attributed to the kombucha tea, its sales increased by 125% in 2017. On the other side, there is evidence regarding its toxicity.
Toxicity of Kombucha Tea
Kombucha is fermented at room temperature for around 7-12 days. If the fermentation process is not clean and sterile, this drink can be contaminated with a fungus called aspergillus, which has been shown to produce toxins. This could cause great damage to people with a compromised immune system, the elderly, children and pregnant. Dr. Andrew Weil says " I do not recommend the Kombucha tea at all". A casualty has been related to the Kombucha tea reported by Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 1995 at Iowa. The person suffered severe metabolic acidosis, where a chemical imbalance takes place where a lot of acids is generated/dumped into the body and the body cannot metabolize them as fast. Even though the death was not attributed directly to the tea, it was related to the daily ingestion and the number of different acids in the drink.
An article published by the scientific journal of Intensive Care Medicine they had a case of a 22-year old HIV positive person. During a study session, the person chugged kombucha tea, which he also shared with a friend. After 4 hours of ingestion, the person developed a fever, but his friend remained healthy. He was then taken to the ER where it was determined that he was suffering acidosis and acute renal failure which were not present after his HIV diagnosis. After treatment with antibiotics and 36 hours without the tea, the patient got better and was allowed to leave.
Although most people drink kombucha without problems, it could definitely be a different case to people with a compromised immune system, the elderly, children and pregnant, due to possible contamination with different organisms like Aspergillus, which could open the door to different diseases. On the other hand, there is factory manufactured kombucha which could eliminate and reduce the contamination with these organisms. Thus, if you drink this beverage because of its flavor, commercial Kombucha might be the best option. So it all boils down to the benefits of this drink which have not been corroborated or backed up by scientific literature. In conclusion, Kombucha sound too real to be true. Possibly during this 2019, I would skip the Kombucha and I will just go and run around the block for my new year resolutions.
Thank you for reading Arroz y Habichuelas and I hope you read us again in the next publication. Until the next time! If you want to learn more regarding the microbiome please read our poop transplant article!
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