Kombucha: What is all the hype about?

Kombucha is a fermented drink that has recently become one of the fastest growing trends.

It is made by adding a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to a solution of sugar and tea. During the fermentation process, the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol and the bacteria converts the alcohol to organic acids such as acetic acid. Acetic acid has been shown to control the growth of harmful microorganisms in the gut. The end result is a refreshing, tart-tasting fizzy beverage which contains lives cultures of bacteria and yeasts which act as probiotics.

Probiotics are defined as the ‘good’ microorganisms that live in our digestive tract that are expected to have a beneficial impact on our health.

Commercial kombucha can come in a range of different flavours but can also vary greatly in the amount of beneficial bacteria they contain.

Dr Michael Conlon, who is a senior research scientist at the CSIRO, specialising in diet and gut health, states “The health potential of probiotics more generally can vary depending on the number and type of microbes, what you consume them with, and the composition of your own gut microflora. It’s likely the number of microbes in kombucha would be much lower than what you might see in a commercial probiotic product.”

Be mindful! Although these fermented drinks can provide many gut-health benefits, make sure you look at the amount of sugar they contain. Some commercial kombucha drinks can contain as much sugar as popular soft drinks such as Coca Cola. A good target is to aim for <1g sugar per 100ml or look for any added sugar listed in the ingredients list.