Health News Review

Strong consumer column from registered dietitian.

Our Review Summary

If kombucha drinks are as hot a trend as the column suggests, then it’s worth the space to put claims and beliefs to the test, which this column did nicely.


Why This Matters

As the story explains: "When celebrities like Reese Witherspoon were spotting carrying bottles of kombucha, it was inevitable that the exotic brew’s popularity would, well, mushroom."  So it’s helpful to have an expert column shoot down some of the hype.


Criteria

Satisfactory

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

Story says it costs $3-5 a bottle

Satisfactory

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The story makes clear that there is no evidence to prove benefits.

Satisfactory

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Satisfactory

Nice job on this.  Excerpt:

  • Some reports have linked kombucha with serious complications, including liver damage, toxicity and metabolic acidosis — an abnormal increase of acid levels in body fluids. Other problems can include allergic reactions and nausea. The drink is fairly acidic with high levels of lactic acid and other acids, so experts advise moderation.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in April 1995 that linked homebrewed kombucha with the illness of two women who were hospitalized with severe acidosis. One woman died of cardiac arrest and the other was revived after her heart stopped.

Satisfactory

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Satisfactory

The story is quite clear on this:  there is no evidence. Excerpt: 

  • Dr. Brent A. Bauer, an internist with the Mayo Clinic, doubts the claims. 

    “To date, there hasn’t been a single human trial reported in a major medical journal,” he said.  “This doesn’t mean that kombucha tea can’t possibly have health benefits, it just means that at this time, there’s no direct evidence that it provides the benefits it’s reported to have.”

Satisfactory

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

No disease mongering in the story.

Satisfactory

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

Good input from expert sources providing necessary skepticism.

Satisfactory

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Satisfactory

Story provides appropriate perspective: 

  • It is a new way to get the beneficial bugs that people are looking for in yogurt, kefir and other probiotic dairy drinks. Kombucha also provides a source of prebiotics, which helps fuel the growth of helpful microorganisms in your digestive track. The black and green tea in kombucha also offers some beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols — although you could get the same with a simple tea bag.The drinks do contain sugar, but not nearly as much as some sweetened teas, fruit drinks and sodas.
Satisfactory

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The widespread availability and growing popularity of this product is clear.

Satisfactory

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

Again, good context.  Excerpt:

  • “Kombucha is not a cure-all or a magical drink, but some people say it helps with digestion and energy,” he said.  “It’s just another fermented product to add to your diet in moderation along with other fermented foods.”It is a new way to get the beneficial bugs that people are looking for in yogurt, kefir and other probiotic dairy drinks.
Not Applicable

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

This was clearly an enterprise story.

Total Score: 9 of 9 Satisfactory


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