Saturday, February 22, 2014

What’s Your Cup of Tea? Beverage Does Have Health Benefits Says MU Extension Nutrition Specialist

Contact: Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health specialist
Headquartered in Greene County
Tel: (417) 881-8909

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – What can be better than a piping hot cup of tea on a cold winter night? But with over 1,500 varieties of tea to choose the options can be overwhelming according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Tea can vary greatly, based on where it is grown, time of year harvested, and the processing method used.  Each type of tea has distinct characteristics, as well differing tastes and health benefits,” said Duitsman. “Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water.”

Though many brews may use the name tea, authentic tea is made from Camellia sinensis, a species of plant used to produce white tea, green tea, black tea, and oolong.

“Each of these contains unique phytochemicals from the Camellia sinensis plant, which contribute to the amazing health properties of tea.  The more processed the tea, generally the fewer healthful phytochemicals,” said Duitsman.

There have been more than 2,000 studies conducted on tea over the past few years.  The strongest evidence shows some teas are associated with prevention of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Some teas are also associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and increased bone mineral density and mental alertness.  There is strong evidence that tea protects brain health.

According to Duitsman, green tea is minimally processed, and is a great source of antioxidants, which help ward off cell damage that leads to disease.  It has the highest concentration of EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is a very potent antioxidant that has been widely studied.

“These and other antioxidants in green tea may help prevent cancers of various kinds, help prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce oxidative stress on the brain, reduce stroke, improve cholesterol, and help reduce disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” said Duitsman.

A Japanese study that covered thousands of people showed that elderly adults who drank green tea showed less disability and were more agile and independent than their peers.

“Black tea is more familiar to most people in the United States, since this is the type many of us grew up with.  Black tea begins the same as green tea, but is processed differently and then fermented before being dried.  Both green and black teas contain high levels of healthy antioxidant polyphenols,” said Duitsman.

For many years, researchers did not think that black tea offered significant health benefits.  However, recent studies show that black tea does deliver many health benefits, though its properties differ from green tea.

A 2008 study found that people who drank the most black tea had a much lower risk of Parkinson’s.

White tea is uncured and unfermented, and has been associated with anticancer properties.

Oolong tea is processed uniquely, and contains antioxidants that have been associated with lowering of “bad” cholesterol levels.

No matter the variety, Duitsman says to steep tea for three minutes to enjoy the benefits of the healthful phytochemicals, and to produce a rich flavor.  Decaffeinated tea may have reduced phytochemical activity, as will most bottled and instant teas.

“Enjoy exploring the taste of various teas.  The experience of discovering, brewing and drinking your favorite tea can be very satisfying, and a healthy addition to your daily routine,” said Duitsman.


For more information on nutrition, go online to or contact one of the nutrition and health specialists working in the Ozarks: Dr. Lydia Kaume in Barton County, (417) 682-3579; Dr. Pam Duitsman, in Greene County, (417) 881-8909; or Cammie Younger in Texas County, (417) 967-4545

For 100 years, MU Extension has engaged Missourians in relevant programs based on University of Missouri research. The year 2014 marks the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which formalized the Cooperative Agricultural Extension Service, a national network whose purpose is to extend university-based knowledge beyond the campus.

University of Missouri Extension programs focus on the high-priority needs of Missourians. Each county extension center, with oversight by locally elected and appointed citizens, is your local link to practical education on almost anything. More information on this topic is available online at


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Q: I hadn’t really been much of a tea drinker in the past, but we received one of those Keurig Brewers as a gift. Since, then I drink tea more often. What is your opinion on the K-cups. Are all of the benefits processed out of that tea?

Answered from Duitsman: Since Keurig seems to guard their processes like many industries do, it’s difficult to evaluate their products with certainty. I say the following more as an observation:
• Keurig tea is generally in a category of “instant teas”… which I mention in my article. In general, they may have reduced phytochemical activity.
• The tea leaves are “finely ground” so that the Keurig machine can process the tea much more quickly. Grinding can have significant impact on teas, but it’s hard to be certain of specifics without a defined study on their processes. Generally speaking, grinding exposes the phytochemicals and antioxidants to oxygen, which will very quickly reduce their potency.
• Keurig’s 60 second or less brew time is really more of a “filtering” time. So it does make sense that perhaps time is not sufficient to capture some phytochemicals in the final product.
• Keurig has a standard temperature for brewing (around 192 degrees?). I didn’t discuss this much in my article, but different teas have differing ideal brewing temperatures – that range from 150 degrees all the way up to a rolling boil.

It makes sense, from a scientific point of view, that the above points would impact both flavor and phytochemical activity.

That being said, Keurig does offer so much convenience that many more people are drinking tea. A very good thing!

11:03 PM, February 24, 2014  

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