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Taking Tea’s Health Claims with a Grain of Salt

Let’s be blunt about this whole tea and health thing. There are a lot of flaky claims being made these days. Which is not to say that there are no benefits to your health to be gained by drinking tea. It’s just that you need to take a lot of these claims with a grain of salt – and sometimes a handful.

Oolong-Sencha-Puerh: Health benefit triple threat? Or nightmarish tea blend? (ETS images)
Oolong-Sencha-Puerh: Health benefit triple threat? Or nightmarish tea blend? (ETS images)

This is a topic I’ve written about a number of times, just as I’ve written numerous articles about tea’s potential health benefits. So I’d like to think that I’m pretty neutral on the subject. But recently, as I was looking through a news feed I subscribe to with the keyword of “tea,” I noticed that there were many lofty claims being made. Here’s a look at some of the claims I ran across in a little less than a week. The names and other pertinent details have been omitted to protect the innocent – or whatever.

For starters, we find an article that claims that the high antioxidant content of green tea might help contribute to radiant skin. Well, radiant might be a bit of a strong term, but since I wrote about tea and skin I don’t suppose I can really quibble about this one. Next up, an article that reads more like a press release and makes a number of health claims for a tea that blends oolong, sencha, and puerh. All I can say about this is that, health claims aside, oolong, sencha and puerh don’t strike me as a very appetizing blend.

The next two items on my list are press releases, and they’re for different brands of slimming tea. I see a lot about these miracle elixirs but maybe that’s because I write and research about tea. I’ve written about tea and weight loss in the past, and my position on slimming teas remains the same – while the claims they make might be based on a few grains of truth, they seem to be greatly exaggerated.

One site that focuses on women’s style and fashion contributes an article that states that the benefits of drinking tea are “endless,” though it’s a little vague when it comes to citing evidence. Another site takes the less trodden path of presenting Earl Grey as a miracle health tea, though almost all of the benefits are somewhat overstated and not related specifically to Earl Grey, but more to tea in general. Then there’s kombucha, a beverage which is often blended with tea and which is mentioned in an article on fermented foods that are said to be good for digestive health.

Finally, in this last case I will name names. Here’s a recent article by a Dr. K (Komaroff), a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School, who takes what seems to me to be a brief but rather sensible and balanced look at the potential health benefits of tea. While the other types of claims I’ve discussed are quite common, you don’t really see much of this.

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

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2 responses to “Taking Tea’s Health Claims with a Grain of Salt”

  1. I like to drink tea for the taste. 🙂

    1. Me, too!

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