Friday, September 08, 2006

Tea and Hydration


Sorting out the Facts


Reinforcing the many potential health benefits of tea consumption, a recent review of black tea research, sponsored by the United Kingdom Tea Council, has gained a great deal of attention over the last few weeks.


The findings, published online in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2006), were reported by various national and international news outlets. Thorough readings of the published findings made it clear that what had been reported in the media were only bits and pieces of the review, a powerful and insightful analysis of more than a decade's worth of data compiled on black tea consumption.


The review's objective was to consider whether the consumption of black tea has a positive or negative impact on health. Despite the potential antioxidant power of black tea and the possibility that it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and cancer, media reports often imply that tea has adverse effects on; hydration, cognitive function, bone health, dental health and iron status. These implied adverse effects are frequently linked to the caffeine content in tea. This month's newsletter will dispel these myths focusing on the hydration and caffeine data that was reviewed.


Is Tea Dehydrating?


The hydration benefits of drinking tea is one of the most interesting aspects of the data reviewed. The researchers state that tea hydrates the body as effectively as water with the added antioxidant benefits. This is completely contrary to the popular belief that tea is dehydrating due to the caffeine content; a wives' tale often perpetuated in media reports and even by some health care professionals.


So What About Caffeine?


Caffeine, in extremely high doses, can dehydrate the body but even if you brew a cup strong enough to have that effect, which is almost impossible, it wouldn't be palatable. According to the review, even a really super strong cup of tea would have a net gain of fluid. The reviewers went on to suggest that any possible risk related to excess caffeine intake, if that is a concern for you, can be avoided by limiting your tea intake to 8 cups per day.


Dispelling Myths


Dispelling the myth that tea is dehydrating will take time so spread the word and remember you are what you drink. Over the next few months I will continue detailing the review including the criteria and results, dispelling various other myths. Look for those details in upcoming newsletters and on the tea blog.