tea benefits

  1. In hot water over tea

    Tea comes packed with plenty of great benefits--but if you're selling tea, don't you dare talk about all of those benefits!

    Lipton found that out the hard way when the FDA declared that its teas were now drugs because of claims made on the company's Web site.

    While it's hard to feel too bad for a corporate behemoth such as Lipton's owners, Unilever, in this case they're victims of the biggest bullies on the block: the federal government.

    The company put real and significant data on the benefits of green tea on two of Lipton's Web sites, and specifically mentioned studies that show how the beverage may lower cholesterol levels in post-menopausal women.

    And the FDA says that's a no-no... because that means tea is a "drug" being sold to "treat" high cholesterol, and as such needs to go through the new drug application process.

    What's more, the feds even wrote in the warning letter that green tea "is not generally recognized as safe and effective."

    Just so we have this straight: The FDA would have been fine with these claims if they had been made about dangerous meds like statins, since they've been approved. But give people a natural option and talk about the real research, and--boom--you're on the naughty list.

    I don't even want to know where I might be on that list... but I guess I shouldn't expect any Christmas cards with D.C. postmarks this year.

    They feds are also piping hot over Lipton's use of the phrase "packed with flavonoid antioxidants" because the U.S.D.A hasn't established a recommended daily intake for antioxidants.

    And if Lipton is in this much hot water over mentioning cholesterol studies and antioxidants, imagine what would happen if they really let loose and tried to discuss cancer prevention, disease protection, longevity or any of the other great benefits linked to tea.

    Heads might explode!

    Or, at least, the fax machine would be very busy pumping out warning letters.

    The FDA sent similar warnings to Canada Dry over claims made in connection with its green tea Ginger Ale. That's a little more understandable, since soda is unhealthy in the first place and no amount of tea will change that.

    But to go after a tea producer for talking about the scientific research on the health benefits of tea shows, yet again, the wacky priorities at the FDA.

    Just remember: If you want the taste and benefits of tea, skip anything in a bottle and brew your own. One recent study found that you'd need to drink up to 20 bottles of store-bought tea just to get the benefits in one fresh- brewed mug.

    So make your cup of tea a real cup of tea... and don't let anyone at the FDA bully you away from it.

  2. Bottled tea empty of benefits

    If you want to make sure you're getting all the benefits of tea, then make sure you brew your own.

    That's because all the terrific polyphenol antioxidants that make tea such a great beverage choice practically disappear once the brew is bottled, according to a new study. In some cases, you may need to drink up to 20 bottles of store-bought tea just to get the polyphenols you'll find in a single fresh-brewed mug.

    You won't read about that on the label!

    Researchers collected 49 samples of six brands of bottled tea bought from grocery stores. Half of those tested contained virtually no antioxidants. The other half had small amounts--in some cases, so small that drinking them would provide no real antioxidant benefit.

    Overall, the 16-ounce bottles had between 3 and 81 milligrams of polyphenols, according to the test results presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

    Tea brewed at home, on the other hand, will usually contain between 50 and 150 milligrams of polyphenols per cup.

    And those polyphenols hold the key to many of tea's benefits--including the benefits I've written to you about from time to time. Tea--especially green tea--has been linked to cancer prevention, heart and vision health and a lower risk of diabetes, dementia and depression.

    Some studies have even found that tea drinkers live longer.

    I'd be willing to bet that the patients enjoying all the benefits in those studies weren't gulping down Snapple.

    Polyphenol levels aside, there are plenty of other reasons to skip bottled teas, which are usually overflowing with some pretty awful ingredients--including sugar and other sweeteners and artificial flavors.

    The bottles themselves could even be poisoned, since they may contain the hormone-like chemical bisphenol A.

    But of course, the bottom line here is that tea is so incredibly easy to make on your own that it's stunning to think there's any market at all for bottled brew--much less the massive billion-dollar industry that exists today.

    After all, you don't even need a kettle and a stove to make a cup of tea--just a teabag, a mug, some water and a microwave. And brewed on your own, tea costs pennies a cup.

    Ounce for ounce and dollar for dollar, real tea offers one of the best nutritional boosts you'll ever sip.

    Just do like the kids say and "keep it real."

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