A SCOBY may look pretty gross, but new research suggests the bacteria and yeast glob could help Type 2 diabetics lower their blood sugar levels.
The study found participants who consumed 8 ounces of kombucha for four weeks saw their blood sugar levels decrease from 164 to 116 milligrams per deciliter.
Scientists from Georgetown University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the nonprofit MedStar Health reported the findings Tuesday in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal.
Kombucha, a fermented, sweetened black tea drink produced from a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, has long been touted as healthy, based on claims it enhances immunity and energy levels, reduces food cravings and alleviates gut inflammation.
“Some laboratory and rodent studies of kombucha have shown promise, and one small study in people without diabetes showed kombucha lowered blood sugar,” study author Dr. Dan Merenstein, a professor at Georgetown’s School of Health, said in a statement.
“But to our knowledge, this is the first clinical trial examining effects of kombucha in people with diabetes,” he continued. “A lot more research needs to be done, but this is very promising.”
In the study, one group drank the kombucha while another downed a placebo beverage.
No one was told which drink they were receiving.
After a two-month period to “wash out” the biological effects of the beverages, the mixtures were swapped between the groups, who were directed to drink their new concoction for four weeks.
The placebo beverage didn’t seem to have any effect on blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association recommends fasting blood sugar levels be between 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter.
Participants drank kombucha produced by Craft Kombucha, a commercial manufacturer in the D.C. area.
The study authors noted different brands of kombucha have slightly varying microbial mixtures.
“However, the major bacteria and yeasts are highly reproducible and likely to be functionally similar between brands and batches, which was reassuring for our trial,” said Dr. Robert Hutkins, the study’s senior author.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 37 million Americans have diabetes, with 90-95% of them having Type 2 diabetes.
Approximately 96 million American adults — more than 1 in 3 — have prediabetes.
“Diabetes itself is the eighth leading cause of death in the US as well as being a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure,” lead study author Dr. Chagai Mendelson said.
Mendelson said further studies are needed to assess kombucha’s effect on diabetes.
“We hope that a much larger trial, using the lessons we learned in this trial, could be undertaken to give a more definitive answer to the effectiveness of kombucha in reducing blood glucose levels, and hence prevent or help treat Type 2 diabetes,” he added.
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