Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tea (real tea) versus extracts

A friend recently asked me what I thought of "green tea extract", a liquid that when a little squirt is added to 6 oz. of water, you receive something on the order of 15X the antioxidant capacity of one cup of green tea. So many thoughts ran through my head with this short question. I hardly knew where to start (or end) my response to her.

In a nutshell, this is what I said. Anytime a product gives you a very large equivalent of anything (especially consumed over a short time frame), essentially that is like taking a drug of the active molecules. EGCG is short-hand for the molecule in green tea that has the most anti-oxidant and anti-cancer activity. It is important to remember that the Japanese and Chinese people drink tiny cups of green tea all day long, thus if there are health benefit from the components of the tea, they are coming in small doses all day long, not one big whopper of a dose. ECGC (and other components less well studied) could be acting very differently in those large doses compared to small even doses. In addition, I actually wonder if part of the health benefits from tea drinking actually come from taking the time to slow down to make the tea and enjoy a few minutes drinking it alone or with friends and family, instead of our American way of doing nearly everything these days (fast, super-size, convenient, and/or with as little effort possible).

Until clinical trials help to define the composition, dose, and benefits of an extract that retails for $20-$30 for a month's supply, I'm choosing to put my money into real food (i.e., real tea).

Thus I do not consume green tea extract myself and cannot recommend it. In fact, I am a dedicated fan to making my own tea and drinking it slowly while I enjoy both the taste and the time involved. I even carry my own tea bags or loose tea when I travel. Unfortunately, it is still not the norm to see green tea available on the airlines, in most restaurants, hotel rooms, or sadly, even as an option at health care conferences.

I ended the note to my friend with the hope that I sounded like the "healthy skeptic", not a cynic. :-)

Here was her response back to me:
"Well and wisely said....usually if something sounds so easy, something is not right! Thanks for your input...greatly appreciated and valued!"

I have a beautiful photo of a pot of tea and teacup that I'm figuring out how to insert into this posting. It's a perfect day to spend indoors puttering on a project like that, as this is our first rainy in weeks and weeks and weeks. I hope all our garden plants are smiling and soaking it up. :-)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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