Over ten years ago BBC2 series The Truth About Food cast a sceptical eye over the purported benefits of probiotics in our food.
In the intervening decade the issue of probiotics has featured sporadically on British television, each time receiving a cynical rap. Until now, that is. The second series of BBC2’s Trust Me, I’m A Doctor , broadcast in February 2017, finally lifted the veil on the now irrefutable benefits of probiotics – and why they received such a poor press previously.
Historically, the media focus on probiotics was largely based around big brand yogurt drinks. Over the years their big name manufacturers heavily emphasizied the high concentrations of gut-healthy probiotic bacteria they contain, spurring six in ten households to buy such products regularly and spawning a billion-dollar industry.
EU health food claims directive
Claims of their products’ purported positive effect on gut health remained scientifically unsubstantiated, however, spurring the EU to launch a Europe-wide directive in December 2012 forbidding food manufacturers making declarations about their products not backed up by scientific evidence, leading to such claims on packaging being outlawed overnight.
In 2014, independent laboratory tests on popular yogurt drinks concluded that the probiotics they contain have little or no benefit due to most of their good – mostly lactobacillus – bacteria not surviving the journey through the harshly acidic digestive tract, while those that do make it through don’t last for long once they reach the gut.
By contrast Dr Paul Cotter, Head of Food Biosciences at Teagasc in Cork (above, with Trust Me presenter Dr. Michael Mosley), concluded from an experiment with volunteers that if the bacteria are fermented in an acidic base, as in Kombucha, then most of the good bacteria do bypass the digestive tract to reach the gut intact, conferring a net benefit.
as good as home made
Furthermore, lab tests were run to determine if commercial ferments contained as much live goodness as their homemade counterparts. Surprisingly, shop bought pickled kimchi and sauerkraut were found to contain no live acids or enzymes possibly as a consequence, Cotter surmised, of their being pasteurized prior to distribution.
By contrast, commercial kefir brands were found to contain almost as much good lactobacillus bacteria as kefir made at scratch from home, while there was virtually no discernible difference between the vast amounts of lactobacillus bacteria found in off the shelf unpasteurised Kombucha compared with home-brewed Kombucha tea.
As more fruit-infused UK Kombucha brands filtrate the yeasts and/or pasteurise and artificially carbonate to regulate their brews due to to the destabalisation that can occur when adding yeast-devouring fructose prior to bottling, GO! Kombucha will continue using only the finest teas and nothing else, ensuring stable fermented tea that is 100% raw – and as authentic as home made!