Monday, August 23, 2010

Bottled vs. brewed teas: Study reveals healthiest teas

Labels on bottled tea beverages are typically plastered with declarations of their rich antioxidant content. But a new study suggests, if you're looking for high doses of healthful antioxidants, you might be better off brewing your tea at home.

Many of the popular beverages included in the study contain fewer antioxidants than a single cup of home-brewed green or black tea, the researchers say. Some store-bought teas contain such small amounts that consumers would have to drink 20 bottles to get the antioxidants, also called polyphenols, present in one cup of tea.

"There is a huge gap between the perception that tea consumption is healthy and the actual amount of the healthful nutrients — polyphenols — found in bottled tea beverages. Our analysis of tea beverages found that the polyphenol content is extremely low," said study researcher Shiming Li, an analytical and natural product chemist at WellGen, Inc., a biotechnology company in North Brunswick, N.J., that develops medical foods for patients with diseases, including a proprietary black tea product that will be marketed for its anti-inflammatory benefits.

In addition, bottled beverages often contain large amounts of sugar that health-conscious consumers may be trying to avoid, Li said.

The study was presented Aug. 22 at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Boston.

Bottled vs. brewed
Antioxidants are substances that protect cells against damage from unstable molecules called free radicals. They may play a role in preventing a host of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's.

Li and colleagues measured the level of polyphenols of six brands of tea purchased from supermarkets. Half of them contained what Li characterized as "virtually no" antioxidants. The rest had small amounts of polyphenols that Li said probably would carry little health benefit, especially when considering the high sugar intake from tea beverages.

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