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Once upon a time there was tea. It was black – for the most part. It was a time, here in the West, when tea and black tea were nearly synonymous. But in the last decade or so it’s green tea that’s grabbed the overwhelming share of attention.

With the popularity of green tea there’s also been a search for the next big thing in tea – a search that has turned up the likes of white tea, oolong, and even puerh. The latter is a type of tea that’s not known to most people and isn’t even known to many tea drinkers.

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

The super-condensed version of what puerh is: a type of tea that’s produced in Yunnan, China, and that’s notable for being fermented after the processing stages. If you do even a cursory scan of the web, you could be forgiven for believing that puerh is something of a magic elixir brimming over with health benefits.

What you’ll also notice is that a lot of those making claims for puerh seem to have a horse in the race, as the saying goes. Which is to say a lot of the claims for puerh’s benefits come from merchants who are keen to sell you…puerh tea. Which is an easy enough claim to make about a type of tea that’s considered to be rather exotic.

But is there any truth to the health claims made for puerh tea? This is no place for an in-depth study, but we’ll look at a few of them. Though it’s also worth considering whether any benefits said to arise from puerh have to do with puerh specifically or tea in general.

As the popular Dr. Andrew Weil notes at his web site, some of the claims made for puerh are “promotion of weight loss, reduction of serum cholesterol, and cardiovascular protection.” However, he goes on to claim, “not many scientific studies exist on pu-erh tea, so we don’t know how valid these health claims are. Some research suggests that pu-erh may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk, but this hasn’t been confirmed in humans.” An article at one major city paper echoes some of these claims and references a 2009 Chinese study that indicates that puerh lowers cholesterol. It also points to a 2011 study that suggests that puerh can inhibit tumor growth.

As for those claims regarding puerh and weight loss, there are actually several studies that have looked at this topic. All were carried out by Chinese researchers, not surprisingly. This one used rats as subjects and suggested that puerh might have some benefits with regard to weight loss and cholesterol reduction.

This study used puerh extract and human subjects and claimed a slight reduction in weight over a three-month period, but no significant reduction in cholesterol. Here’s a study that summarizes “current progress on understanding the mechanisms and bioactive components of Pu-erh’s weight-cutting effects as well as highlighting current weaknesses in the field.” Last up, a study that compares antioxidant content of puerh and various other teas and finds that it compares favorably.

Which is just a brief look at a topic that probably merits a closer look. It also merits at least a tiny bit of healthy skepticism. But that’s probably true any time health claims are being made for foods or beverages.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

C Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Izu Matcha (ETS image)

Izu Matcha (ETS image)

Here’s my oft-repeated opinion on the health benefits of tea, condensed to one sentence: I don’t deny that there’s evidence that tea can be healthy, but there’s no shortage of people who are eager to stretch those claims in the interest of selling tea.

While many claims for tea’s benefits center on green tea, there have also been efforts to call attention to the alleged health-giving properties of white tea and puerh, in particular. Then there’s matcha, which often seems to be the focus of health claims nowadays.

Which is another of the many varieties of green tea, mind you. It’s a powdered tea, often of high quality, that comes from Japan. Once upon a time, at least in the West, matcha was an obscure tea that was used mostly by those few people who took part in the Japanese tea ceremony. But in the last few years matcha has rallied to become something of a phenomenon, with a number of tea merchants who sell nothing else.

I decided to do a quick and completely unscientific survey of some matcha offerings from a few well-known tea companies and a few of these specialists. One simply mentions health benefits, while another zeros in on the vitamins, minerals and fiber therein. One claims that matcha contains 137 times more antioxidants than steeped green tea, while another makes the lofty claim that matcha has an “intense cleansing effect on the body” and “helps to pull the toxins into the blood stream and then filters them out of the body.”

It’s these last two claims or some variation of that I’ve noticed being put forth quite often for matcha. The theory, as I understand it, is that because matcha is made from the entire tea leaf (which is usually just steeped in hot water and thrown away), it contains more antioxidants than other teas. But is that true or just a nice way to sell more tea?

As it turns out, it seems that there’s some evidence to support these claims. In 2003, researchers at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs published a paper they titled Determination of Catechins in Matcha Green Tea by Micellar Electrokinetic Chromatography. Which sounds like pretty daunting stuff, but what it boils down to is this, “results indicate that the concentration of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) available from drinking matcha is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from China Green Tips green tea, and at least three times higher than the largest literature value for other green teas.”

In a more recent study, researchers from Croatia tested the antioxidant content of nine varieties of tea that ran the gamut and included matcha. At the top of the heap, along with a variety simply described as Twinings, was matcha. Gyokuro, which is also a type of Japanese green tea, also took a top spot in the rankings. To see the results in PDF format, click here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

heart-150x150I frequently grumble about the exaggerations that various parties make for the health-giving properties of tea. But I don’t necessarily deny that there might be something to this “tea is healthy” notion, and I’ve written my fair share of articles on the topic. I thought for sure I’d covered the potentially beneficial relationship between tea and the risk of stroke, but a glance at the archives here indicates that this is not the case.

A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States, with over 800,000 people dying here every year from cardiovascular disease and strokes.

As the CDC notes, “you can greatly reduce your risk for stroke through lifestyle changes,” and one of these changes, according to recent research, is to drink three cups of tea a day. Doing so is said to reduce the risk of a stroke by about twenty percent. Rather than doing an original study, the UCLA team who did the research sifted through a number of previous studies on the topic and compiled their findings. While we may be accustomed to green tea getting the lion’s share of the attention in such cases, this time around researchers determined that green or black tea would do just as well at reducing the risk for stroke.

For a layperson’s overview of this study, refer to this recent article from the British press. For an abstract of the study and the option to purchase the full results, look here.

A previous study on tea and stroke was released earlier this year and found that four cups of green tea or one of coffee could also bring about a reduced risk of stroke in the amount of twenty percent. In this case Japanese researchers examined the records of 84,000 Japanese people going back over a 13-year period to arrive at their findings. Results of the study were published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke. For more details, refer to this release from the AHA that summarizes the results of the study.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Pearl River Green Tea

Pearl River Green Tea

Is there any miraculous health benefit that has yet to be laid at the feet of green tea? Aside from curing bubonic plague and the gout, it seems like just about everything else has been covered. To paraphrase the old advertising slogan about orange juice, “a day without a report about green tea’s health benefits is like a day without sunshine.”

But seriously. Though the reports seem to be flying fast and furious it’s not so easy these days to deny that drinking green tea is probably good for you. One of the most recently released research studies on the topic is one that suggests that green tea might be of some benefit to your teeth, in particular, as well as other aspects of overall oral health.

Research was conducted by a team of Israeli researchers who published their findings, an article titled Green Tea: A Promising Natural Product In Oral Health, in the Archives of Oral Biology. The team pointed to the polyphenols in green tea – and epigallocatechin 3 gallate (EGCG), in particular – as being the compounds that are likely to provide such benefits.

Among the various oral health-related benefits researchers pointed to are the ability to help protect against bacterial induced dental caries, a condition better known to most of us as tooth decay. This is said to be the second most frequently occurring health problem after the common cold. Green tea may also help reduce halitosis (bad breath) through modification of odorant sulphur components.

In addition, the polyphenols in green tea may also help protect against the ill effects of some of the harmful compounds in cigarettes, such as nicotine and acrolein, which may cause such conditions as oral cavity oxidative stress and inflammation. Last, but not least, the researchers also suggested that green tea can defend “healthy cells from malignant transformation and locally has the ability to induce apoptosis in oral cancer cells.”

The researchers ultimately concluded that “there is still a need for more clinical and biological studies to support guidelines for green tea intake as part of prevention and treatment of specific oral pathologies.” For more on tea and oral health, be sure to check out this earlier article from The English Tea Store Blog.

Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician for your particular needs.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One of the great attractions of tea is that it’s good for a pick me up, thanks to its caffeine content. In this respect it’s much like coffee, but with tea there are additional factors that make the boost it offers a bit more gentle. The first point to consider is that the average cup of tea typically contains less caffeine than the average cup of coffee. In addition, tea also contains a compound called theanine, which has been found — paradoxically enough — to promote relaxation even at the same time that the caffeine in tea gives you a jolt.

Can tea help you sleep like a baby?

Can tea help you sleep like a baby?

Which is all well and good, but have you ever wondered what effect an entire day’s worth of tea drinking might have on your state of alertness or your ability to sleep? A group of British researchers from Unilever Research and the University of Surrey wondered the same thing and took steps to find out. Their study, which also looked took a look at coffee and water, was titled “A Naturalistic Investigation of the Effects of Day-Long Consumption of Tea, Coffee and Water on Alertness, Sleep Onset and Sleep Quality.”

The study was carried out with the help of thirty healthy volunteers. Tea drinkers were given an amount equivalent to one or two cups of tea four times a day between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. Caffeine content in the tea was equivalent to 37.5 mg or 75 mg, which was about half the amount of caffeine ingested by coffee drinkers.

The researchers concluded that “ingestion of caffeinated beverages may maintain aspects of cognitive and psychomotor performance throughout the day and evening when caffeinated beverages are administered repeatedly.” It should probably come as no surprise, given its lower caffeine content, that tea was found to be “less likely to disrupt sleep.” Interestingly enough, though, researchers also found “that day-long tea consumption produces similar alerting effects to coffee, despite lower caffeine levels.”

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Mercedes Apple Spice Herbal Tea Loose Leaf

Mercedes Apple Spice Herbal

It’s spring again and, to paraphrase Tennyson a bit, it’s a time when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of…allergies. Well, maybe that’s not quite what old Lord Alfred was getting at. But for many young men or women or for that matter, for people of any age, the approach of spring means one thing – the onslaught of sneezing, itchy eyes and other manner of discomfort that comes with seasonal allergies.

There are all kinds of allergies, of course, but for the purposes of this article we’ll confine ourselves to the potentially beneficial effects of tea on the seasonal allergies to pollen and assorted other substances that make spring such a mixed blessing for so many. It’s a considerable problem, according to Web MD, where they estimate that “each year, 35 million Americans fall prey to seasonal allergic rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever.”

So what kind of role does tea play in all of this? Web MD also notes that food such as onions, apples, and black tea contain a flavonoid known as quercetin, which “has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown in research to block histamines,” a substance that triggers allergy symptoms.

Gyokuro Japanese Green Tea loose leaf

Gyokuro Japanese Green Tea

A study by researchers at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan found that green tea, in particular, might be useful in relieving the discomfort of allergies. The study, results of which appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that methylated epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is especially abundant in green tea, in laboratory tests, blocked “a key cell receptor involved in producing an allergic response.” As the head of the study concluded, “If you have allergies, you should consider drinking it (green tea).” For more on this study, look here.

According to one tea merchant, a type of Japanese tea known Benifuki, contains “a special catechin (Methyl Catechin) which has become renowned for its ability to fight the symptoms of hay fever.” It was developed in the 1990s by Japan’s National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science (NIVTS), who determined that “if Benifuki was processed into green tea it was rich in Methylated Catechins and this ingredient was effective suppressing histamine, the cause of itchy eyes and a runny nose.” More about this potentially beneficial type of tea here.

Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician for your particular needs.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tea is good for you, right? As a matter of fact there are numerous studies out there that have shown that it probably is. But (with apologies to George Orwell) it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to suggest that when it comes to health benefits, some of the teas are more equal than the others.

Take bottled tea, for instance. Or better yet, don’t take it, at least not if you’re trying to maximize the health benefits to be gained from drinking tea. While there’s nothing wrong with drinking bottled tea or even a soda now and then, keep in mind that the quality of the former can vary quite widely among brands.

According to a recent research study, bottled tea is likely to be lacking when it comes to the ingredients that make other types of tea more healthful. According to Shiming Li, an analytical and natural product chemist at WellGen, Inc., a New Jersey biotechnology company, six brands of tea purchased from supermarkets contained negligible amounts of polyphenols, an antioxidant in tea that provides many of its health-giving benefits. The teas that were studied contained anywhere between 3 and 81 milligrams of polyphenols per 16-ounce bottle.

According to Li, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in August, “Someone would have to drink bottle after bottle of these teas in some cases to receive health benefits,” he said. “I was surprised at the low polyphenol content. I didn’t expect it to be at such a low level.” More about the research on bottled tea here.

Not that this is the first time that anyone has taken a look at bottled tea’s impact on health. At Men’s Health a while back they weighed in on the 20 Worst Drinks in America for 2010 and concluded that Sobe tea was one of them, with an eye-bugging 61 grams of sugar in every 20-ounce bottle.

I’m sorry if I’m the one who had to break this to you, but tea is apparently not perfect. Amid the seemingly endless flurry of reports on the many positive health benefits that we can realize from drinking tea, you’ll occasionally run across one or two not so good reports.

For instance, it’s said that black tea might increase the risk of kidney stones. More recently, a study by researchers at Georgetown University suggested that drinking tea might raise the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in post-menopausal women.

Okay – fair enough. It would be silly to assume that there can never be any downsides to tea drinking. In addition to the above-mentioned issues, there’s the simple fact that, for some people (including yours truly), just the caffeine in tea can be something of a mixed blessing.

On the other hand, it seems just as silly that the London Telegraph used the aforementioned arthritis study as a springboard for an article with the attention-grabbing and somewhat sensational title – “Tea: Is It Good Or Bad For You? Without going into all that much detail the article runs down a number of claims for tea, including the notion that it might help with such maladies as diabetes, weight loss, cancer, heart disease, eye problems and more.

The downsides listed are rather negligible, including – as already noted here – the notion that the caffeine in tea is not recommended for those who are sensitive to it. As for cons, well, there really are none others listed. So one could arrive at the very non-scientific conclusion, based on this sparse article, that tea is good for you (as if we hadn’t already decided that).

For more on these potential health benefits of tea, be sure to refer back to the many and varied articles that regularly appear in these very pages – with more sure to come soon.

Don’t forget to check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!

It’s probably a bit of an overstatement to say that yerba mate is taking North America by storm. But this popular herbal beverage has been making inroads in this part of the world in recent years and its popularity shows no sign of abating.

Green Yerba Mate

In some parts of South America, however, yerba mate is as ingrained in the culture – or perhaps even more so – than coffee drinking is in North America. Yerba mate, in its traditional form, is prepared in a gourd known as a mate and consumed through a metal straw called a bombilla that serves to filter the liquid from the steeped solids. Check out this brief overview of some of the possible health benefits to be derived from yerba mate.

As noted briefly in the article mentioned above, yerba mate may have a beneficial impact on cholesterol levels. In this respect, it’s not unlike one of its better-known liquid cousins – tea. For more on the possible links between tea and cholesterol, refer to this overview on the topic.

According to results that appeared in 2009 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a clinical study was carried out that supports the notion that yerba mate has the ability to reduce LDL cholesterol. Researchers found that drinking several cups of yerba mate a day helped to decrease the undesirable LDL cholesterol, while increasing the so-called “good” HDL cholesterol.

The single-blind control trial, which was carried out by Brazilian researchers, looked at a total of 102 individuals, each of whom ingested 330 milliliters, three times a day, of green or roasted yerba mate infusions. This was the equivalent of three to four cups of yerba mate, which research subjects consumed for a period of 40 days.

For more in-depth information on the results of this study, refer to this abstract and full-text version ($$).

You may not know it, but your cup of tea has in it the nutrients of a serving of vegetables and then some. Before I go further, due to confusing terminology commonly in use among sellers of teas and herbals, I need to clarify that I am talking about true tea made from the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis), not things made of dried flowers, fruits, and various plant matter. These can also have nutrients, but that’s another article.

Have you seen the V-8 commercial where people have a number counter floating over their heads? The number changes when they have a serving of vegetables, or a glass of V-8. How about getting that from a cup of tea? Impossible, you say. Possible, I say. Change your “vegetable number” with a cup of tea.

Here are the nutrients in a serving of V-8:

Vitamin A • Vitamin C • Calcium
Iron • Potassium

Here are some nutrients in various vegetables:

Vitamin A • Fiber • Vitamin E • Vitamin C
Iron • Potassium • Magnesium • Zinc

Here are the nutrients in a cup of green tea (according to the USDA):

Iron • Potassium • Magnesium • Zinc • Phosphorus
Manganese • Riboflavin • Pantothenic acid • Copper

There is also Vitamin P (a flavonoid — also found in various fruits and vegetables — that enhances the function of Vitamin C). Plus, teas have polyphenols and theanine (an amino acid unique to tea). They reduce the risk of high blood pressure, help defend our systems against mutagenic agents, fight against viral and bacterial infection, slow down aging, and improve digestion.

Sencha Green Tea

See what I mean?

All of these things make them an even healthier choice than a serving of vegetables, except you don’t get the fiber that’s in vegetables. However, you can get that fiber by eating the tea leaves after steeping. Yes, some teas can take the place of those vegetables on your dinner plate. For example, I recently ate the steeped leaves of a Japanese Sencha tea and had a very tasty experience (sort of a cross between spinach and seaweed — yum!).

Each type of true tea has some case-study proven benefits:

  • White Tea — generally on a par with green tea but with more anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents, and contains a stronger content than any other tea of anti-oxidants to defend better against cancer causing cells.
  • Green Tea — protects against several different cancers (lung, breast, prostate, etc.), and speeds up metabolic rates and fat oxidation to help with weight loss and give you a more energetic feeling.
  • Oolong Tea — makes a pleasant diet aid due to its strong flowery taste (more like green tea than black tea) that is a little bitter but leaving a sweet aftertaste, prevents skin damage, and enhances the function of enzymes through its anti-oxidant properties.
  • Black Tea — affects stress hormone levels so you recover faster from daily stress, reduces the risk of heart attacks, and helps in losing weight.

Tea can’t be a substitute in your daily food intake for vegetables, but it can add a serving or two. Think I’ll go steep up a serving now. Enjoy!

While you may be able to substitute tea for vegetables once or twice a day, there’s certainly no substitute for A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill! Check it out today!

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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