'Miracle' tea is the choice of celebrities but fears on side effects linger
Just the latest placebo: "Although the health benefits have not been scientifically proven..." There's one born every minute
It's been hailed as the miracle tea that can do everything, promising to fight cancer, ward off infections, treat arthritis and even help you lose weight. But don't be put off by the fact it's made from bacteria, and tastes ever so slightly of vinegar.
For Kombucha tea is set to be the latest health food fad to hit Britain when it goes on sale later this year. Celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan and Halle Berry swear by the product which has already taken America by storm. But despite the craze, health experts warn there is a small risk of side effects with some people experiencing rashes, vomiting and jaundice.
There are also fears that the tea can become toxic if it is stored in ceramic containers that leach chemicals into the liquid.
The product is usually served chilled - similar to iced tea - and sold in bottles from health food stores. But it can also be brewed at home by buying packs of bacteria and yeast, mixing them with sugar, tea bags and water and leaving the liquid for a week to ferment.
Experts claim that the high numbers of bacteria give the immune system an energy boost which helps the body get rid of harmful toxins.
Although the health benefits have not been scientifically proven, many regular drinkers claim to have been cured of ailments including arthritis pain, indigestion, kidney stones, eczema and insomnia.
It has also been credited with helping treat more serious illnesses such as cancer, high blood pressure and even improving failing eyesight.
The tea is thought to boost the body's metabolism which can help weight loss - some people claim to have shed as much 30lb.
But health experts warned that people should be cautious as little is known about the benefits or risks of the tea.
Some people have reported suffering allergic reactions such including rashes, jaundice, stomach upsets and even breathing problems
These may have been caused by the tea becoming toxic when it has been brewed and later stored in a ceramic container.
The liquid is very acidic and this can cause certain chemicals from the ceramic to leach in.
Last year the tea was withdrawn from hundreds of health food stores in America after it was found to contain small amounts of alcohol, which had been produced by the bacteria. Miracle tea: Kombucha Regulators and retailers are concerned that the ancient and trendy tea may need to be regulated as an alcoholic drink because some bottles have more than 0.5 percent alcohol
Miracle tea: Kombucha Regulators and retailers are concerned that the ancient and trendy tea may need to be regulated as an alcoholic drink because some bottles have more than 0.5 percent alcohol
Dr Emma Williams, of the British Nutrition Foundation said: 'Until more is known about both the health benefits and harmful effects surrounding this type of tea, consumption should be viewed with caution. 'There is little scientific evidence available in the literature to support the beneficial effects of this tea.'
Manufacturers were ordered to ensure drinks contained no more than 0.5 per cent alcohol or issue warning labels on those with higher volumes.
But although it has only recently become trendy, the tea has been drunk for thousands of years and is believed to be first made by the Chinese in 220BC who believed it had magical powers.
Two different brands of Kombucha will go on sale next month priced at around £4.99 for a 750 ml bottle.
But it has already become popular among those brewing it themselves at home. Packs of the special bacteria and yeast can be brought online along with instructions on how to make it.
Alick Bartholomew, director of the Kombucha Tea Network, which advises people how to brew the tea for themselves, said "It is very good for the immune system, mostly because of its probiotic activity in the intestinal tract.
'It is a live product and is very unpredictable - you can't predict what's going to happen.
'There have been more inquiries over the past few months from people wanting to know how to make it.'
This entire discussion shows how simply being fat is medicalized as a health problem called "obesity". The fact that people of middling weight live longest is never mentioned, let alone discussed for its implications
In some cases, obese children should be removed from their homes, according to a group of child health specialists from England and Ireland.
If parents fail to provide medical treatment for a child with a chronic disease like asthma or epilepsy, government welfare officials can put the young patient in foster care. Should they do the same for children who are obese — and therefore at risk of developing lifelong complications such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes?
In some cases, the answer is yes, according to a group of child health specialists from England and Ireland. "Childhood obesity can be seen as a failure to adequately care for your children by failing to provide a healthy diet and sufficient activity, whether through direct neglect or more subtly through an inability to deny children the pleasures of energy dense fast food and television viewing," the experts write in a paper published online Wednesday by the British Medical Journal.
The question isn't academic. There are sporadic reports in the U.S. of courts removing obese kids from their homes, and it has happened at least 20 times in Britain.
The neglect that leads to obesity may be a sign of other problems in the home. As many as one-third of obese adults say they were sexually abused as children. In addition, one-third report being victims of other kinds of abuse, such as corporal punishment, according to the paper.
With this in mind, pediatricians and other professionals should think about whether obese kids would be better off in the custody of child protective services, the experts write. There are anecdotal reports of dramatic weight loss by kids in foster care, though there are no long-term studies showing that removing obese children from their families results in weight loss. (In fact, one study of 106 British children placed in foster care found that 38 of them became overweight after they joined the foster system.)
Obesity alone isn't sufficient to warrant a call to child welfare officials, according to the experts. Nor is a kid's failure to lose weight after being counseled to do so, they added. Even families that put a lot of effort into helping a child shed extra pounds don't necessarily succeed. But parents who don't at least try to help their kids should be viewed with suspicion, according to the paper.
"Parental behaviors of concern include consistently failing to attend appointments, refusing to engage with various professionals or with weight management initiatives, or actively subverting weight management initiatives," the experts wrote. "Clear objective evidence of this behavior over a sustained period is required."
Researchers should gather hard data on whether children gain or lose weight during time spent in foster care, they wrote. In the meantime, they added, guidelines should be drafted to help professionals decide when to intervene on behalf of obese kids.