Monday, July 7, 2008

Green Tea, Black Coffee And A Sweet Tooth

Good morning, all! On this Monday morning, after a 3-day weekend here in the States, I poured myself a cup of strong, dark coffee and savored it. I love the smell and taste of coffee, and recently felt vindicated after reading an article this weekend by Dr. Andrew Weil in Time Magazine about the benefits of coffee vs. the benefits of green tea.

Newer research indicates that coffee's health benefits are now being brought to light:

Coffee is more complicated. It has received both gold stars and black marks in the medical literature. It too contains antioxidants, although they are less well studied than tea polyphenols. Evidence for the health benefits of coffee is growing, however. In the August issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, a group of investigators from Finland, Italy and the Netherlands report that coffee seems to protect against age-related cognitive decline. The scientists studied 676 healthy men born from 1900 to 1920 and followed them for 10 years, using standardized measures of cognitive function. Their conclusion: the men who consumed coffee had significantly less cognitive impairment than those who didn't. Three cups a day seemed to provide maximum protection.

As a coffee drinker, I think that's excellent. But, what about green tea? We hear all the time about it, and Dr. Weil is an advocate:

That's why I was so interested in a report last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A team of Japanese researchers was able to link green-tea consumption with decreased mortality from all causes--including cardiovascular disease. The researchers tracked 40,530 healthy adults ages 40 to 79 in a region of northeastern Japan where most people drink green tea, following them for up to 11 years. Those who drank five or more cups of green tea a day had significantly lower mortality rates than those who drank less than one cup a day. There were also fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease.

But no such association was seen with deaths from cancer. Nor was consumption of oolong or black tea correlated with any decrease in mortality. Those teas are more oxidized in processing, which not only darkens the color of the leaves and changes their flavor but also reduces their polyphenol content.

Yet, this article clearly states the benefit of green tea on the heart.

Led by Dr. Nikolaos Alexopoulos of Athens Medical School in Greece, the researchers found that among 14 subjects, those who drank green tea showed greater dilation of their heart arteries on ultrasound 30 min. later than those drinking either diluted caffeine or hot water. That's because, the scientists speculate, green tea works on the lining of blood vessels, helping cells there to secrete the substances needed to relax the vessels and allow blood to flow more freely. It's the flavonoids in the tea, which work as antioxidants and help prevent inflammation in body tissue, that keep the vessels pliable. These substances may also protect against the formation of clots, which are the primary cause of heart attacks. "We found very promptly [that] after drinking green tea, there was a protective effect on the endothelium," says Dr. Charalambos Vlachopoulos, a cardiologist and one of the authors of the study.

My only problem? I'm not a big fan of tea, in general. I do come from a tea-drinking family, after all, but it's never really been my thing. I've experimented from time to time with honey in green tea, to make it tolerable. But that's all it is - tolerable. I'm open to suggestions for making it more palatable.


Studies like these can be confusing, though. How much stock should we put in them? After all, it wasn't too long ago that studies came out showing that coffee was bad for you. I ignored them; after all, I like coffee and I had no intention of giving it up. I did moderate my consumption more, but now it seems that may have been a bit unnecessary in light of recent developments. But these tidbits about diet and food have become an obsession in first world countries. Whether it's because the population is aging, or just we're more aware, I don't know.

I suspect we'd all like to stave off illness and aging as long as possible, but is diet primary culprit? Many people think so.


The last link is for people, like myself, who fall victim to 'demon sugar' from time to time. Take heart, as it may be genetic.

Researchers have found that people with a common variant of a gene that helps the body handle sugar are more likely to crave foods like soda and cake. Sucrose, fructose and glucose — if it is sugar, they like it.

Writing in the online edition of Physiological Genomics, researchers from the University of Toronto say the gene, glucose transporter type 2, helps the brain regulate the intake of food.

This isn't a blanket pass on sugar consumption, which should be moderate, but rather as an example of why not to beat yourself up too badly if you 'fall off the wagon.'

I've been experimenting with consuming primarily fruit sugars, and I must say as long as I get adequate fruit during the day, I tend to crave sweets less at night


purpledogstar said...

Like you, I prefer coffee to tea and it would be v difficult to change my habits, whatever the relative benefits of tea were. I'm glad that the "good" side of coffee has surfaced recently. I must admit, though, that coffee is too bitter for me without milk - I've not been able to drink it black since I quit smoking.

kristin said...

I also hear good things about black tea. Twinnings makes wonderful teas, I tend to favor black tea though. I had a dentist tell me that drinking tea with a little sugar is actually good for your teeth. It is apparently a natural floride treatment. Whodathought?

Steve said...

Nice post. Hell, nice blog. I love the concept.

I recently gave up morning coffee w/sugar and milk for morning spinach, collard green, beet and carrot juice.

My days haven't been the same since.

xysea said...

Hi Steve,

I might get there one day, but for now baby steps!

I am approaching this as a wholistic lifestyle change. The challenge for me, as a person who likes to enjoy life and have fun, is to keep it 'real', not suck the joy out of life...

I think I'm getting the hang of it.


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