Tea Love: Instilling a Love of Tea, One Sip At A Time

Posts tagged ‘Polyphenols’

Battling Illnesses With A Cuppa? Hold On There!

We all do it.   It’s something that we’ve probably grown up hearing that we should do, as a matter of fact.

“If you’re sick, grab a cup of tea and stay in bed.”

After all, we know about all the antioxidants and polyphenols that tea contains.   It would make sense that if our immune systems are battling the dark unknown, we should give it a boost of healthy supplements to get our T cells to win the war against our colds, flus, and general illnesses.

But, what if I told you that this is not necessarily the case?

“But Catherine, you write a whole blog dedicated to tea!   Surely you believe that tea has health benefits, which have been proven by scientific study after scientific study!”

Well, yes and no.

Just like I say at my Tea Love talks, I am NOT a doctor and would never dream of giving out medical advice.   However, as my talks became more popular, more and more people were asking about the health benefits of tea, and rightfully so.   Tea is proving to become more and more popular in the United States and is usually promoted for weight loss, dental health, cancer prevention (though the National Cancer Institute does not recommend for or against the use of tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer due to inconclusive studies), and even diabetes management.   So in response, yes, I do touch upon a few medical studies that have been performed with tea, though never advocating for any particular use.

Global News reporter Rachel Lau recently published an article addressing the question if drinking tea really does help you when you are sick.

First, make sure that what you are drinking is healthy for you.   For example, those who might have certain mental illnesses might have to watch their caffeine intake.   All forms of tea, unless it specifies caffeine free (NOT decaffeinated, which does still contain trace amounts of caffeine), do contain caffeine.   By drinking without regarding the caffeine intake, you could be doing anything from packing on the caffeine right before bed to causing more serious health issues.

Second, never self-diagnose (I am terrible at this, so do not follow my example!).   If you think that drinking a certain tea might be beneficial, talk to your doctor first.   Some plants that you might use in your teas can cause more harm than good.

Third, be wary of the studies.   While yes, there are numerous studies for everything ranging from green tea to herbal teas, they are all new studies and some do not have the greatest controls.   So while, as the National Cancer Institute says, there are studies, most are new and some do not have the support of the medical community.

Overall?   Drink tea!   Love tea!   Worship tea!   But make sure you are drinking it for enjoyment or if you are cutting down on sugars and subbing tea instead, rather than drinking it to cure an illness like cancer.

What Exactly ARE Polyphenols?

When reading about tea, the word “polyphenols” has a tendency of creeping in.   The scientific term is never really explained in too much length, just that they are good for you.

But, that does not seem like enough.   What exactly are polyphenols and why are they good for you?

Polyphenols, according to WiseGeek.com, are “antioxidants in plants that many believe have a substantial amount of health benefits.”   They work to eliminate free radicals in the body, which are known to cause a series of health problems.   Finally, they might help to prevent premature aging (a sort of Fountain of Youth?).

Why are free radicals bad?   Well, put simply, they make you age.   They also damage tissue and might even cause some diseases.   Since these molecules are unstable, they look to bond with other molecules.   This destroys the other molecule’s health and creates a cycle of damage.   By drinking tea and eating food full of polyphenols and antioxidants, you might be slowing down your aging and helping your body in more ways than you can imagine!

However, the jury isn’t completely out on that thought yet.   According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “Epidemological observations and laboratory studies have indicated that polyphenolic compounds present in tea may reduce the risk of a variety of illnesses, including cancer and coronary heart disease.”   Since most of the  findings have mostly been in lab animals, centers like the MD Anderson Cancer Center are collaborating with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to see how humans are affected by tea through clinical trials.

The study will see if tea polyphenols can be even more useful if they are combined with other items like certain foods and vitamin supplements.

So, while it is not yet scientifically proven that the polyphenols found in tea will have any direct benefit to the drinker, it does seem rather likely.   Even if there is no direct benefit, tea still tastes darn good!   The polyphenols are simply an added benefit.

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