Does drinking Kombucha help with weight loss?


We all tend to reach for those cold refreshing bubbly drinks more often as the tropical heat starts to build (yes, I’m talking to you FNQ humans). After 4 months of “chilly” weather, it’s nice to relax and enjoy a cool sweet (and often sugary) beverage. This might just be a habit that is getting between you and your weight loss goals. So what can you drink instead to fill “the spot”?


Kombucha. At first glance, it is difficult to imagine this drink as an elixir that will help you to lose weight. After all, Kombucha is mostly just sugary tea right? Wrong!


Kombucha starts as sugary tea, however it transforms (like a frog into a prince) into a delicious low sugar beverage through the process of fermentation. Approximately 90% of the sugar added to the tea is consumed by yeast during the fermentation process. The exact sugar amount remaining depends on how long it’s left to ferment.


According to the Australian Food Standards Code, a drink must be 2.5g sugar or less per 100mL to be considered low sugar [1]. Sugar content of commercial Kombucha products range from less than 0.1g up to 3.8g. So even though not all Kombucha can make the “low sugar” claim, they shape up well against typical sugary drink suspects in supermarkets and café drink cabinets: Coca-Cola (10.6g sugar per 100mL), Orange Juice (5.5g sugar per 100mL) Gatorade (6g sugar per 100mL), iced tea (6.7g sugar per 100mL), coconut water (4.7g sugar per 100mL), Vitamin Water (5.2g sugar per 100mL) [2].

Sugary drinks provide excess energy (calories/kilojoules) which can lead to weight gain, particularly if paired with a energy dense diet. There is significant research to support that sugar-sweetened drinks are a key contributor to the epidemic of overweight and obesity [3]. Making the switch to a lower sugar beverage can make a real difference to your health over time. Just think, for some who drinks a can of coke everyday, swapping it for Kombucha could reduce their yearly added sugar consumption by as much as 12.7kg!


So does the weight loss benefits from Kombucha stop short at the fact it is lower in sugar than most other sweet drinks? Maybe not. Research is growing which links a healthy and diverse gut flora to lower body mass [4, 5]. There may be an association between the two phenomena however it is almost impossible to say what came first, the healthy gut flora (the chicken) or healthy body mass (the egg).


We know gut flora diversity can be influenced by many things such a course of antibiotics, regular probiotic use or a significant change in the fibre content in our diet. There is no evidence to say drinking Kombucha alone will impact gut flora diversity however it could be a contributing factor to this million piece puzzle humans call health. The thing to remember is that health looks different on everyone. What is healthy for one person may be dangerous for another. For example, some people with irritable bowel disease have difficulty tolerating fermented products.


In short, Kombucha is a lower sugar alternative drink, which is naturally carbonated through the fermentation process, making it not unlike soft drink. It’s fair to say that drinking Kombucha, if you like the sweet slightly tangy taste and your gut tolerates it well, can be a very good habit to start you on your weight loss journey; especially if you tend to be someone who reached for a cold bubbly drink in this oncoming tropical heat. Summer is coming!


References:

[1] Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Food Standards Code. [Internet]. [2018 September 26]. Available from: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

[2] Clemons R. Should you be drinking Kombucha? [Internet]. [2018 September 26]. Available from: https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/nutrition/superfoods/articles/kombucha

[3] Malik V S, Schulze M B, & Hu F B. Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr, 2006; 84(2): 274-288. Doi: 10.1093/ajcn/84.1.274

[4] Hartmann A M. et al. Effects of chronic kombucha ingestion on open-field behaviours, longevity, appetitive behaviours, and organs in c57-bl/6 mice: a pilot study. Nutrition, 2000; 16(9): 755-761. Doi: 10.1016/S0899-9007(00)00380-4

[5] Enders G. Gut, the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ, 2015. Scribe Publications: Carlton North, Australia.

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