Is there a tea conspiracy?
Yes, a tea conspiracy. No, I’m not talking about the Tea Party. I’m referring to the health benefits of Green, Black, and Oolong Tea and the relative lack of support by government regulators and American health officials. Let’s break it down.
The National Cancer Institute acknowledges that tea contains Polyphenols which are antioxidants. These are well-researched to be related to cancer prevention. In addition, Green tea has been tangentially linked to a host of health benefits. For a good starting point, visit the University of Maryland’s page dedicated to Green tea. On this page, it describes multiple times when the FDA has prevented tea makers from using statements regarding the health benefits. I’m about to go out on a limb here and discuss some of the reasons why.
First, many studies regarding the health benefits of Green tea and other teas have been conducted. One of the main inconsistencies is how the tea is brewed: how long it steeps, temperature, what kind of water is used, etc. Because of this, it could be difficult for blanket statements to be made about the effectiveness of tea if one way of preparation trumps another. So far, I have not seen a study that attempts to find the best methods of brewing to maximize polyphenol content or the compound EGCG (the most active polyphenol in Green tea). It is because of things like this lack of creditable research that the National Cancer Institute and other organizations cannot advocate drinking tea as a cancer prevention tool.
Second, and I’m really going out on a limb here, what could the FDA gain from allowing these statements on Green tea labels? I recently bought 100 packets of Green tea on Amazon for $14.39 at a cost of 14 cents a packet. Big Pharma has lobbyists in Washington that protect their interests (see: making a profit). We know this. Big drug companies don’t want a product as cheap and ubiquitous as tea to eat away at their bottom line when they can come out with a drug that essentially does the same thing as green tea but costs the consumer 1,000 or 2,000 percent more. That is the real reason I think we will not see health statements on tea packages anytime soon.
Tea has been in use in India and China for thousands of years. If even 1% of the proposed health benefits of drinking tea (green in particular) are well-founded, we would be fools not to drink a few cups a day. It’s cheap, it’s accessible, and there haven’t been any studies that have proven a downside to drinking it (at least that I’ve found; please comment if you can find one). If a product has no downside and a huge potential upside, I say go for it. The best thing about it is that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can afford to drink it. It would cost less than $50 a year to have a cup a day. Most people spend more than double that on Bottled Water. Water!
In conclusion, if you are in a position at a University or Research Laboratory to run a study on the health benefits of Green tea or the effectiveness of various brewing methods, please do so. I would love to hear about it and will be glad to post any findings, regardless of the outcome, on my blog. I’m fully prepared to eat my words should the health benefits of tea be ill-founded. Until then, I’m going to continue drinking it regularly.
Are you a tea drinker? What kind is your favorite and why? I’m currently hooked on Morrocan Mint Green Tea from Stash. Do you think there is a tea conspiracy afoot to limit the wording available for tea producers in favor of prescription medications?