Exploring the Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea

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It’s often called the ultimate functional beverage as it combines the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of tea with the potent health benefits of probiotics. It’s kombucha tea and it is expected to go from a $3.5 billion industry to a $17.1 billion industry in less than ten years.

This non-alcoholic naturally carbonated tart ready-to-drink beverage is produced by fermenting sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that can include acetic acid bacteria and/or lactic acid bacteria. While some feel it is an acquired taste, most people drink kombucha tea because of its purported health benefits.

How Healthy is it?

According to a 2023 review, in vivo and in vitro research has identified many health-promoting properties of kombucha tea, including antimicrobial, antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, and immunomodulatory.

Older in vitro research demonstrated that kombucha consumption had a cardiovascular protective effect by increasing HDL and decreasing LDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. A 2012 in vitro study showed that kombucha not only had antilipidemic properties but also helped stabilize blood sugar levels.

A 2023 randomized controlled pilot trial featuring adults with type 2 diabetes showed that kombucha consumption lowered average fasting blood glucose compared to placebo. This is consistent with a 2023 randomized placebo-controlled cross-over study that showed drinking kombucha after a standard carbohydrate meal resulted in a clinically significant reduction in glycemic index and insulin index responses compared to placebo.

New research from this year shows that drinking kombucha tea remodels metabolic pathways that suppress lipid accumulation by mimicking fasting. The research regarding the benefits of intermittent fasting is growing, showing that it can help with weight loss, cognition, mood, women’s health, and more. The researchers of this newly published analysis explain that kombucha consumption “stimulates a fasting-like response in the C. elegans intestine by rewiring transcriptional programs to promote lipid utilization.” The results of this study shed light on potential and important mechanisms by which kombucha tea exerts its health-promoting benefits. 

Drinking kombucha tea at the recommended amount is generally considered safe; however, drinking it in excess should be avoided. A 2022 review describes some case reports of adverse events in people drinking excessive amounts of kombucha and explains that it may be contraindicated for immunocompromised individuals. The researchers also caution against home-brewed kombucha as this can increase the risk of adverse reactions due to unregulated production issues.

While more human clinical trials are needed to determine the exact health benefits and safety of kombucha tea, preliminary research shows great promise. And given the fact that it has been in existence for more than 2,000 years, certainly, anecdotal evidence carries some weight. Of course, the research separately on probiotics and tea is robust so it makes sense that the combination can also be health-promoting.