- Doctors found over 100 bubble tea balls in a 14-year-old girl’s digestive system after she complained of stomach pain and couldn’t poop for five days straight, according to Chinese outlet Shaoxing News.
- She told doctors that she drank one cup of bubble tea five days before arriving at the hospital, but one of the doctors who treated her believes she consumed even more of the beverage.
- Most people can digest bubble tea balls with no issue. The girl likely consumed too many over a short time period, overwhelming her digestive system, Dr. Rabia De Latour told INSIDER.
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Doctors found over 100 bubble tea balls in the digestive tract of 14-year-old Chinese girl, raising questions about the health implications of consuming the sugary drink and its accompanying balls.
The girl complained about having stomach pain and being constipated for five days straight, and once she arrived at the hospital, her doctor used a CT scan to determine the bubble tea balls were the culprit, according to Chinese outlet Shaoxing News.
Bubble tea (which is also called boba tea) is a traditionally Taiwanese beverage made with iced tea, milk, fruit, and flavourings. These drinks also contain edible “bubbles” or “pearls” made from tapioca, the same balls that Dr. Zhang found in the girl’s digestive tract.
The girl said she had only consumed one boba tea drink five days prior to her hospital visit, but Dr. Zhang believes she would have had to drink a lot more than she let on in order to cause such a severe blockage.
Bubble tea balls shouldn’t be a cause for concern for most people, Dr. Rabia de Latour, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, told INSIDER.
“What I garnered from this situation is she was nervous about telling her parents about how much she had,” Dr. de Latour said. “Most people who drink bubble tea don’t see the bubbles in their stool [when they poop]. I think she just overwhelmed her system.”
Bubble tea balls are easily digestible for most people
Since tapioca comes from the starch-based cassava root, it’s mainly filled with carbohydrates, according to Healthline. Starches like cassava function similarly to fibre in the body, and healthy people can digest them with no problems, Dr. de Latour said.
A 2009 study even compared the digestibility of different Sri Lankan starches like yams, taro, and arrowroot, and found that cassava is one of the most easily digestible root vegetable-derived starches.
To help the girl digest and pass the bubble tea, her doctor gave her laxatives.
“This story doesn’t mean boba tea is dangerous. It just shows that everything should be done in moderation, especially since there is very little nutritional value in these drinks too and a lot of sugar,” Dr. de Latour said.
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