If Google Trends is anything to go by, American’s thirst for bubble tea (aka milk tea, aka boba tea) is at an all-time high. Fans of the beverage may be glad to know that "research" linking the drink's tapioca pearls to cancer has been found faulty, but – as with most things in life – moderation is a good idea. As one poor teen found out.
According to an article published in The Paper, a 14-year-old girl from Zhejiang Province in China was admitted to hospital with an upset tummy and constipation. She told doctors she had not had a bowel movement for five days straight and so, without any obvious explanation as to why medics booked her in for a CT scan to identify the cause of the problem.
The image that came back showed dozens and dozens of round high-density shadows, stretching from the patient's stomach all the way to the rear end. In total, there were over a hundred of these strange circular spots.
The medic in charge asked the patient what food she had been eating before she started feeling her symptoms – and she mentioned having had a bubble tea five days ago. As the doctor explained in an interview with The Paper, a single bubble tea is not enough to cause so many undigested pearls (or boba). The girl must have been drinking a lot over an extended period of time. He suggested she may have been scared to admit to her parents just how much she had been drinking, worried she might be punished.
"So many undigested 'pearls' are not accumulated [from] a cup of milk tea," Dr Zhang Louzhen told AsiaOne. "It would be caused by drinking for a while."
These "pearls" tend to be made from tapioca, a starchy substance found in the storage roots of the cassava plant. (We say "tend" because many places also offer pearls made from substances like jellies and fruit juices.) However, some manufacturers add thickeners and preservatives that may not be particularly gut-friendly.
Still, it goes without saying but that was an extremely, extremely rare case and fans of bubble tea don’t need to be too worried. As for the girl involved – according to AsiaWire, she was given laxatives to aid her constipation and relieve her symptoms.