Earl Grey is plentiful here! (ETS image)

Earl Grey is plentiful here! (ETS image)

What can you say about the potential health benefits of Earl Grey tea that you can’t say about black tea? Now, I guess I should explain that one. As a general rule, Earl Grey tea and black tea are the same thing, with one key difference. Though other types of tea are occasionally used to make it, Earl Grey is most often made by adding oil of bergamot – a small citrus fruit that’s grown primarily in Italy – to black tea.

Well, as it turns out, it’s bergamot that’s been identified as being potentially beneficial in a recent study on Earl Grey tea and heart disease. So to be nitpicky about it it’s more of a study on bergamot than tea, but how many other uses for bergamot can you name besides Earl Grey tea? Me neither. In an article from the British press that reported on these findings, we’re reminded that Earl Grey is, of course, a blend that’s “much favoured in Downton Abbey.” Just in case you were wondering.

As the aforementioned article notes, the research suggests that bergamot contains “enzymes known as HMGF (hydroxy methyl glutaryl flavonones) which can treat heart diseases as effectively as statins.” Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the study was carried out by Italian researchers at the University of Calabria, who published their results in the Journal of Functional Foods. You can access the abstract of the study here though you’ll need to pay for the full results.

The study found that HMGF tended to reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol which can lead to while also increasing levels of so-called good cholesterol. In the former case the effects of HMGF were found to be as useful as the statins that are also used to treat heart disease. Which may be good news for anyone who drinks Earl Grey tea and, for those of us who were wondering, the article notes that bergamot apparently also turns up sometimes in jams, ice cream and folk medicines, the latter due to its alleged antiseptic properties.

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

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