Antioxidant Levels of Common Teas Vary Widely
By Jacqueline Stenson
SAN DIEGO (Reuters Health)
Not all teas on the market pack the same antioxidant punch, according to an analysis of 20 common brands that shows wide variation from one brew to another.
Many studies have suggested that chemicals in tea known as polyphenols act as antioxidants that may help to fight off heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.
But if you're trying to boost your antioxidant intake by sipping tea, don't assume that all products are helping you achieve that goal, advised Susanne M. Henning, a researcher at the University of California Los Angeles Center for Human Nutrition.
"There's a strong variation between different brands of tea," Henning told Reuters Health.
But a representative for the US tea industry argued that the research does not provide the full story on tea's antioxidant content, because the researchers only looked at a single group of antioxidants, known as catechins.
In measuring the catechin content of a variety of green and black teas that were brewed for about 3 minutes each, Henning and colleagues found levels as high as 217 milligrams for Celestial Seasonings Green Tea, 201 milligrams for Lipton Green Tea, 164 milligrams for Bigelow Darjeeling Blend (black tea) and 157 milligrams for Uncle Lee's Green Tea.
On the lower end, they found 53 milligrams of catechins in Stash Premium Green Tea Decaf, 46 milligrams in Twinings Earl Grey Black Tea, 38 milligrams in Bigelow Constant Comment (black tea) and just 10 milligrams in Bigelow Constant Comment Decaf.
And when it came to the two iced tea mixes studied, results showed that both Lipton Lemon Iced Tea and Snapple Peach Iced Tea had no measurable catechin content at all.
The results were presented here Monday at a nutrition conference organized by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and other medical groups.
Henning said the study provides useful information for consumers seeking potential health benefits from tea consumption, and raises the question of whether companies should label the antioxidant content of their teas. "I think it would be good if they would," she said, particularly since some companies promote their products as containing antioxidants.
The findings also are important for researchers trying to tease out the health effects of green tea, she said. A tea that contains trace amounts of antioxidants may yield vastly different results from one that is loaded with them.
Henning noted that both black and green tea are derived from the same plant but are processed in different ways, which may account for some of the differences in antioxidant levels.
Green tea is commonly thought to have more antioxidants than black tea. This was often but not always the case in the new study.
Joe Simrany, president of the New York City-based Tea Council of the USA, told Reuters Health that the industry is working on developing a standardized system for labeling tea's antioxidant content. But, he added, there has been less study of black tea--which makes up 80% of the tea consumed in the US--and there is hence a weaker understanding of how to measure the amount of antioxidant chemicals it contains.
"Most scientists that really have studied this have found that the number of antioxidants in black tea are actually higher than what are found in green tea," he added.
Simrany noted that the California researchers didn't check for flavonoids and thearubigins, both antioxidants contained in black tea "which the scientists are telling us are equally powerful as antioxidants."
Thanks to Reuters Health & Yahoo, 2/26/02
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