Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Power of Tea

     Well Company, there seems to be some good news if you are British.  Or Chinese.  Or Russian.  Or Japanese.  Or you live in one of the million billion countries that any of those places colonized.  Or if you just happen to like to drink tea.  A new study over in Europe has supposedly shown that tea is possibly a healthier drink than water.
     This, if you haven't figured out already, is a pretty big deal, because all they have been telling us is that water is super good for the body, as long as it comes out of a Brita pitcher or a bottle.  That is why people are always walking around with the damn Nalgene bottles everywhere they go.  That is why there are exactly eleventy billion bottled water brands out there, including brands owned by Pepsi and Coca-Cola.  That is why most doctors today would recommend that you go out into your backyard in the evening and shove your garden hose up your ass to get the required daily amount of water.  I stole that joke from Lewis Black, I'll admit.  All that aside though, the research has always said that water is good when it is going down our throats, unless of course we are drowning. 
     The line on tea, however, has always included the story that it leave you dehydrated, which makes sense because it contains caffeine, and that is something that caffeine does.  Haven't you ever drank a ton of Coke or Mountain Dew to try and hydrate yourself and ended up no farther ahead.  That is what caffeine does.  The study also found out that tea drinking can impair the body's ability to process iron from food, so if you are anemic then you shouldn't drink tea at dinner time.  Whoop-de-do!  It did, however, find a lot of benefits.
     First of all, they found out that tea rehydrates as well as water, which is good I suppose.  Now, I can't imagine that anyone, while running sixteen miles, is going to be squirting Earl Gray out of their bottle, one because that would be scalding hot and two because that would be ridiculous, but it is an interesting discovery.  And, aside from the caffeine thing, why wouldn't it?  Tea is essentially water with some stuff added, there is nothing taken away.  You don't lose water in the process of making tea.  But then again, you don't lose water in the process of making Mr. Pibb either, it's the stuff that is added that impairs how your body absorbs the water.  Here is what the researchers, specifically Public Health Nutritionist Dr. Carrie Ruxton, had to say about the caffeine issue:  "Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate. But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid."  So there you do.
     The health benefits of the tea comes from just all of those things that are floating around in the water, mainly all the antioxidants that leach off of the tea leaves.  And the health benefits from the aforementioned antioxidants and their cohorts are numerous.  The researchers say that they include but are not limited to:
-  rehydration
-  reducing the chances of a heart attack
-  protection against cancer
-  prevention of plaque
-  protection against tooth decay (no word yet about the gum disease gingivitis)
-  bone strengthening
Wow, it's like the Superman of drinks.  The good Doctor Ruxton noted that water essentially replaces fluid, and that tea replaces that fluid as well as adding antioxidants.  But what about all that iron I am not absorbing?
     Are your ready for the catch?  Because there is a catch.  First of all, all these researchers did was look at the results of other studies published about tea consumption.  So they basically did a book report.  Good job guys.  Secondly, the study was funded with money from the Tea Council.  DING, DING, DING! We have a winner.  Dr. Ruxton can talk all she wants about the impartiality of the study - which she does - this is still glaring as the zit on your high school daughter's face on the night of the prom.  So the tea council paid a bunch of white coats to figure out through the use of other studies that tea was good.  Yeah, that sounds impartial to me.
     Anyway, whatever this study is worth, it is not like drinking tea is going to hurt you.  Drinking three cups of tea a day (which the pseudo-study found is the average and what it recommends) is not going to have the adverse affects of drinking, say, three cups of Colt .45 every day, so have at.  All that sugar and cream you are adding in there might change the story a little, but if you are making like a Chinese cab driver and you have a pile of tea leaves steeping in hot water all day long as you go about your business, then more power to you.  Enjoy.  It's going to be good for you apparently.  Better than water even.

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