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Published October 04, 2012, 11:35 PM

Five Things Friday: Five tea myths explained

Americans are hot for tea. On any given day, about 50 percent of the American population drinks tea, according to The Tea Association of the U.S.A. Tea is also the second-most widely consumed beverage (after water) worldwide.

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

Editor’s note: “5 Things Friday” is a weekly feature in SheSays that will run on – you guessed it – Fridays. It will focus on quick tips, ideas, activities and more – all in bunches of five. If you have a “5 Things Friday” suggestion, contact us at shesays@forumcomm.com.

Americans are hot for tea.

On any given day, about 50 percent of the American population drinks tea, according to The Tea Association of the U.S.A. Tea is also the second-most widely consumed beverage (after water) worldwide.

I enjoy green or cinnamon hot tea, unsweetened and served in a giant mug. Sherri N. Stastny, a licensed registered dietitian in Fargo, prefers unsweetened brewed iced tea.

Tea has been touted as having many health benefits. Stastny lent her expertise to debunk – or affirm – five tea myths.

  1. Green and black tea might protect against cancers (skin, ovarian, breast and others).

    Yes. While there’s not enough evidence to conclude that tea protects one from cancer, U.K. clinical studies do seem to show positive evidence for a reduced risk for breast, prostate, ovarian and endometrial cancers with ample tea consumption. “In other words, drinking brewed tea may be beneficial for health,” Stastny said.

  2. Green tea boosts metabolism.

    No. “There are quite a few factors that play into how fast or slow we metabolize energy,” Stastny said. The largest factors include the amount of physical activity and the amount of energy needed for everyday resting, breathing, etc.

    “A very small part of metabolism could get a boost from caffeine found in green tea,” she said. “Some very short studies have had successful weight loss results with tea consumption; however, these studies were not very well controlled.”

    Tea does contain caffeine and could affect sleep if used instead of water or other noncaffeinated beverages later in the day, Stastny added.

  3. Tea fights free radicals.

    Sort of. When healthy cells are weakened by everyday activities such as breathing, physical activity or exposure to smoke, free radicals are produced by our bodies. The free radicals attack healthy cells, and the body is more susceptible to disease and illness, she said.

    “Antioxidants, found in plant-based foods such as green tea, help protect the healthy cells, at least theoretically – we are not sure,” Stastny said. “Meanwhile, it’s prudent to be sure we get enough antioxidant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other plant-based foods because we know these foods have multiple health benefits.”

  4. Green tea reduces bad cholesterol in the blood and improves the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol.

    Sort of. A study based in China found that habitual tea drinkers had lower LDL (“bad”) and total cholesterol compared to a similar group of non-tea drinkers.

    “If you lower the LDL level, you also improve the ratio,” Stastny said. “Exercise increases HDL (“good”) cholesterol.” Walking is an easy form of exercise.

  5. Green tea regulates glucose levels.

    No. A Japanese study found that green tea substances fed to diabetic mice lowered glucose levels. “However, saying that green tea regulates glucose levels is quite a stretch – even for mice!” Stastny said.

The skinny: Without milk or any sweeteners, tea is calorie-free drink that you can feel good about drinking.

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