How Healthy Are “Health” Drinks?

Kombucha, sports drinks, fruit juices. All of these beverages are thought of as healthy. All of these beverages contain sugar and have a low ph, making them acidic, and therefore harmful to your teeth.

Kombucha, which originated in ancient Europe and Asia, is a fermented tea drink produced by the introduction of bacteria and yeast into sugared tea. Widely touted today as a health drink, it is credited with the ability to cure a variety of ailments by boosting the human immune system. These benefits are largely attributed to the presence of the probiotic bacteria lactobacillus. This “good for you” microbe has been shown to improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal conditions, reduce antoibiotic side effects, and treat yeast infections. While present however, the quantity of probiotics in kombucha is insufficient to produce the desired results, and only a few studies, none of which involve human trials, have demonstrated clinical benefits. On the contrary, consumption of kombucha may lead to clinical detriments due to pH levels similar to those of soda, which can cause dental erosion and decay.

Sports drinks, commonly marketed by athletes and advertised on the sidelines of sporting events, are another category of beverages falsely purported to promote health. Like kombucha, sports drinks contain sugar and have a low pH, making them acidic. Over time, the sugar and acid from these drinks degrade tooth enamel, the barrier substance responsible for protecting the underlying tooth structure.

Natrual fruit juices are a third dental health culprit with only limited offsetting health benefits. Typically containing high amounts of natural sugar and a range of low pH levels, many of the benefits of natural fruits are lost in the juicing process. For example, the skin of apples contains an anticariogenic substance that is quite healthy for teeth but is eliminated during the production of apple juice. Orange juice, often thought to be one of the healthiest fruit juices, also has one of the lowest, and therefore most acidic, pH levels. While certain health benefits can be found in some fruit juices, a healthier option is to eat whole fruit, as most of the healthy properties of juice can be obtained from the whole fruit, while limiting some of the health detriments.

If you choose to drink kombucha, sports drinks, and/or fruit juice, there are some things you can do to minimize the dental detriments. Rather than sipping throughout the day, finish your drink in one sitting. Neutralize the pH of mouth immediately afterward by either drinking or “swishing” with water. Avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after drinking anything acidic, as brushing with a low pH level in the mouth can actually cause enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity.

What is healthy to drink? Water. In addition to having none of the detriments of kombucha, sports drinks, and fruit juices, water can also have the added dental health benefit of fluoride.

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