Poppi Lawsuit: Dietician Weighs in on Alleged Gut Health Benefits

A lawsuit against prebiotic soda company Poppi alleges the drinks have no real gut health benefit. Here’s what a dietician has to say.

A new lawsuit filed by consumer Kristin Cobbs accuses prebiotic soda company Poppi of misleading customers about the beverage’s supposed gut health benefits.

In the lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, Cobbs says she purchased the drinks multiple times due to the company’s slogan “Be Gut Happy. Be Gut Healthy.” But after looking closely at the ingredients, she discovered that each can of Poppi contains only two grams of prebiotic agave inulin fiber — citing research that found that even 7.5 grams of daily agave inulin wasn’t enough to produce any real benefit.

She claims that in order to receive any concrete benefit, consumers would have to drink many Poppis per day, and the total amount of sugar consumed as a result would outweigh any benefits.

Poppi is one of many brands selling prebiotic and probiotic sodas that are supposedly good for gut health. The trend of “healthier” sodas has been exploding recently, and dietician Taylor Grasso, RD, tells Healthnews that marketing about gut health benefits from soda companies should be taken with a grain of salt.

“I'm a big Poppi fan, but have never drunk it for the ‘potential benefits,’” Grasso says.

The truth about Poppi’s alleged gut health benefits

As mentioned in the lawsuit, Grasso says Poppi utilizes a prebiotic fiber called inulin, providing about 2 grams of dietary fiber per can. However, the recommended daily amount of fiber intake varies based on age and sex; according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended amount is 14 grams per 1000 calories of food. So it’s safe to say Poppi isn’t a magic soda that’s going to heal your gut.

If you are looking to improve your gut health by upping your fiber intake, Grasso recommends adding in more complex carbohydrates including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and lentils.

“These food items are going to pack a much bigger fiber punch and they are going to provide a ton of other nutritional benefits,” she says.

The potential harms

So Poppi probably isn’t going to fix your gut health, but can it hurt it? The answer, Grasso says, depends.

Individuals with irritable bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are more sensitive to fibers like inulin, as it's a FODMAP (long-chain carbohydrates that are difficult for the body to digest). As a result, Grasso says this kind of fiber can cause gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms in individuals with these conditions.

“Individuals who have IBS or IBD may want to be careful with drinking beverages like Poppi or its counterpart Ollipop due to the fibers found in them,” she says.

Additionally, Poppi contains stevia as a sweetener. In some in vitro and animal studies stevia has been shown to potentially alter the gut microbiome, but it remains unclear whether that's positive or negative, and what that 'dosage' required is to have this impact.

Overall, she says it's likely not going to do any harm to your gut by having one or two per day, unless you're noticing GI symptoms or have IBS or IBD.

The gist

While Poppi does also contain sugar, it has far less than a regular soda. It also has fewer calories and good flavor, so Grasso still sees it as a better alternative to a regular Coke or 7Up.

But if you are going to drink Poppi, don’t forget to also drink plenty of water throughout the day, she says.

Still, Poppi can be a great option to mix it up when you want something different. Other healthier options to soda that Grasso suggests include sparkling water varieties, or mocktails with ingredients like coconut water and 100% unsweetened fruit juices.

“Is Poppi a magic gut health supplement? No,” Grasso says. “Is it a better-for-you soda alternative that has less sugar? Absolutely.”

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