Don’t Believe What You Read … About Tea

Oolong Teas (ETS image)
Oolong Teas (ETS image)

If Napoleon Bonaparte was right when he remarked that skepticism is a virtue, then I’d have to say that I’m rather virtuous when it comes to evaluating the many and varied health claims for tea. I’ve gone into detail about my thoughts on the topic many times now. So I’ll just summarize this time around by suggesting that you shouldn’t always believe what you hear or read on the topic of tea and health.

Let’s start with yellow tea (which I wrote about awhile back), and specifically with an article I ran across recently which suggests that it’s “the best health food you’ve never heard of.” I will go so far as to agree that yellow tea is rather obscure. So much so that even a lot of people who drink tea might not have heard of it. But, given the title, the article really doesn’t have all that much to say about the alleged health benefits of yellow tea.

The conclusion seems to be that it’s close to green tea in this regard, but that it might be easier on your stomach and that it might protect the liver of rats. Which is outstanding news, if you’re a rat with a sensitive stomach and a penchant for yellow tea. While there’s not really anything in this article that I can outright disagree with, I think in this case what I take issue with is this ever popular notion that tea is a miraculous elixir of some sort.

Then there’s weight loss. You can find any number of claims for how much weight tea can help you lose, ranging from subtle and well-reasoned to downright ridiculous. Here’s one I ran across recently that’s quite brief and which seems to fall more or less in the middle of that range between subtle and ridiculous. It examines some of the oft-repeated claims for oolong tea and weight loss. They’re claims which I agree might actually have some truth to them but which are frequently overstated, usually in the interests of selling tea.

Last up, and hot off the press as I write this, a brief US News and World Report piece that reminds us that tea might help fight cancer and diabetes and is good for your brain and teeth. All of which I’ve said in these very pages before, so I certainly can’t argue the point. What I quibble with is that when these points are so briefly stated it feels like the “tea as miracle elixir” type of presentation once again.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Believe What You Read … About Tea

  1. Rather than just repeating what the manufacturer says about a product, catalog marketers – including companies with online catalogs – should ask for material to back up the claims. If the manufacturer doesn’t come forward with proof or turns over questionable material, a catalog marketer should see a yellow “caution light.” This is especially true for products with extravagant performance claims, health or weight loss promises, earnings guarantees, and the like. In writing ad copy, catalogers should stick to the claims that can be supported and avoid embellishing manufacturers’ representations. Most importantly, catalog marketers should trust their instincts when a product sounds too good to be true. For more information about selling merchandise by catalog or through direct marketing, ask the FTC for the Business Guide to the Federal Trade Commission’s Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule and Business Checklist for Direct Marketers.

  2. The only *fact* cited in the CNN article is that oolong consumption (in one trial only and though they do not mention it the consumption was 5 cups per day) led to enhanced energy burning equivalent to 67 calories per day. That’s about half a cookie – hardly the “fantastic tool with regards to maintaining and losing weight” that the article ends up claiming.

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