Sunday, 30 October 2011

this stuff'll kill you

an apothecary in Munich

I've been reading a lot recently about the health benefits of tea.  It's rather remarkable what drinking this stuff will do for you.  Most of the time I reject these promises outright.  The proof, if there is in fact any proof, is often flimsy.  Or misleading.

So I went searching for the most ridiculous promises of tea's magical properties, and a funny thing happened.  Many of the sources I found wrote their claims in such a way that they can't be disputed.

'Drinking tea might delay Alzheimer's' or 'Green and black tea can slow down the spread of prostate cancer' or 'Tea may lower cholesterol and protect against heart disease'.  You get the idea...this stuff just might happen...maybe...actually, the place I read those provided sources for many of the claims and they look reputable enough.  You want to see it?

It's at a site called 2BASnob.  Aside from recommending that you should drink loose-leaf tea whenever possible, but if you're on the go and have to drink instant or bottled tea, you should just drink more...yeah, aside from that, it seems like there's a lot of good information.

I can hear you saying, 'That's not funny.  What was the funny thing that happened?'  Well, I was getting to that.  So then I found a site based upon the Wikipedia page about health benefits of tea.  It's a page with some content (the first column) and then a selection of google ads and related stories (the second column), which appear to send you to similarly written articles.  Then there's another section for ads and video news and some more ads and then a listing of breaking news (the third column)...What the hell is your point Lahikmajoe?

(revision...I don't want to drive any, or any more, traffic to that site, so I've resolved to link to Alex Cazort's article Health Benefits of Tea, which actually has reliable information not written in such an annoying and meaningless style)

I'm sure this site is driving lots of traffic to and fro, but is all of this really necessary?  It's so busy...I'm almost unable to focus on the reason I came here.  Health benefits of tea, right? (Again, I've taken the link out to that site.  If you really want to see it, I'm sure a quick search will bring you either to it or somewhere as useless).

Once I pay attention, my eyes zero in on this sentence:

One should consult a doctor before using high concentrations of tea for disease prevention.

Really?  I drink a lot of tea, but not necessarily for disease prevention.  I'm still ok, yes?  My doctor's going to think I'm nuts if I bring this to her.

'Doc, I have to be honest,' I hear myself saying, 'I drink a lot of tea.'

'Yes, and...,' she answers. 'What seems to be the problem?'

So then I tell my doctor what I read next on the Science Daily website:

'Ingestion of large amounts of tea may cause nutritional and other problems because of the strong binding activities of tea polyphenols and the caffeine content, although no solid data exist concerning harmful effects of tea consumption.'

Did you hear that doctor?  I'm doomed.  It's all over.

'I have good news and bad news,' she tells me.  'Which do you want first?'

Oh my, it's worse than I thought.  Ok, I can take it.  Give me the bad news first.

'The bad news is that you are, in fact, going to die,' she acknowledges.

I knew it!  All that bloody tea.  What was I thinking?  Ok, what could possibly be the good news?

'Well, the good news is that it's very unlikely going to be from tea consumption.  It's possible, but highly unlikely.  And probably a long long time from now.'

Oh.  Really?  Well that is good news, isn't it?  I'm going to celebrate this by brewing a pot of tea.  Would you like a cup, doc?


  1. The reason a lot of those purported health benefits are tagged with the dreaded "may" word is thanks to the FDA. Unless it is clinically proven to have a medicinal effect, no outright claim to its benefits can be made. Hence the dodgy language.

    When I first got into tea drinking, my source for health information - for the longest time - was - mainly for the integrative medicine stuff. That and the purveyor of the site was a huge matcha drinker (of which I am as

    I buy into some of the health stuff...but not all. I don't get colds very often, and I owe that to massive tea consumption. But the other stuff? Lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, weightloss, etc.; horseshit.

    I'm thirty pounds overweight and have the blood pressure to prove it. Tea hasn't done a darn thing for that. If anything, the caffeine causes it to spike. Am I going to stop...hell no.

  2. Personally, I think that it is good that the FDA has cracked down on the "health benefits" marketing scheme. These topics are too often used unscrupulously to sell low-quality tea as a medicinal product, which it really is not. It's healthy mainly in the same way other healthy foods are, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

    The page you linked to is rather disappointing to me...Science Daily sometimes publishes higher-quality articles, such as original summaries of new research.

    I find even many of the weaker statements are misleading...things like "One should consult a doctor before using high concentrations of tea for disease prevention." or "Green tea may do X, Y, and Z."

    According to quantum mechanics, drinking green tea may cause Richard M. Nixon to spontaneously rise from the dead before your very eyes...with non-zero probability.

    I would be curious for your critique of's page on the health benefits of tea. It has a markedly more skeptical tone than this page you link to...and I would like to think that it is higher-quality scholarship...there's no cut-and-paste from Wikipedia, nor even paraphrasing. We used Wikipedia only to locate sources from which to do our own research.

  3. I think that the biggest health benefit of drinking tea comes in for people who were soda addicts and dropped their pop for tea... In that context, tea is definitely beneficial and will most certainly lead to the weight loss claims we all hear about.

    Just my two cents.

  4. That's a really good point, Jamie.

  5. unfortunately, most bottled tea is loaded with sugar. which isn't much better than pop/soda. also, i believe that bottled tea loses any beneficial properties after bottling. just another marketing ploy. (lol. i have no scientific info to back me up.)

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