Kombucha Microbes Mimic Fasting Effects, Study Finds

In a recent study, scientists discovered that the microbes found in the popular fermented drink kombucha tea can alter fat metabolism in the intestines of worms, similar to the effects of fasting. The research, led by Robert Dowen at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was published on March 28 in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Kombucha tea has gained popularity in recent years, with many claiming it has various health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, preventing cancer, and protecting against metabolic disease and liver toxins. These benefits are thought to be linked to the drink’s probiotic microbes and their impact on metabolism. However, these health claims have not been extensively studied in humans.

To investigate how kombucha microbes affect metabolism, Dowen’s team fed them to a model worm species called C. elegans. The researchers observed that the yeast and bacteria from the kombucha colonized the worms’ intestines and created metabolic changes resembling those that occur during fasting.

The microbes altered the expression of genes involved in fat metabolism, leading to an increase in proteins that break down fats and a decrease in proteins that build triglycerides, a type of fat molecule. As a result, the worms experienced a reduction in their fat stores.

The authors of the study expressed their surprise at the findings, stating, “We were surprised to find that animals consuming a diet consisting of the probiotic microbes found in Kombucha Tea displayed reduced fat accumulation, lower triglyceride levels, and smaller lipid droplets – an organelle that stores the cell’s lipids – when compared to other diets. These findings suggest that the microbes in Kombucha Tea trigger a “fasting-like” state in the host even in the presence of sufficient nutrients.”

While these results provide insights into how probiotics in kombucha tea can reshape metabolism in a model worm species, it is important to note that more research is needed to determine if humans consuming kombucha experience similar effects. The findings, however, appear to be consistent with the reported human health benefits of kombucha and could potentially inform the use of the beverage in complementary healthcare approaches in the future.

The study’s findings offer a glimpse into the potential role of kombucha microbes in influencing fat metabolism and provide a basis for further research into the drink’s health benefits. As interest in kombucha continues to grow, understanding the mechanisms behind its supposed health effects becomes increasingly important for both consumers and healthcare professionals.

DuMez-Kornegay RN, Baker LS, Morris AJ, DeLoach WLM, Dowen RH (2024) Kombucha Tea-associated microbes remodel host metabolic pathways to suppress lipid accumulation. PLoS Genet 20(3): e1011003. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1011003

The material in this press release comes from the originating research organization. Content may be edited for style and length. Want more? Sign up for our daily email.