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Thursday, 9 April 2009

Under-fire tea still perfect

Tragedy has struck. Until recently, tea was seen as being perfect in most ways, having flavonoids (that have antioxidant properties), being calming and reducing blood pressure, and also aiding slimming if that's what you want, preventing tooth decay, and many other things.

However, tea has been under fire in the news recently. The first one is that tea prices have been 'surging', as reported by the BBC. Apparently tea on the world market has almost doubled in price because of fears that demand is ahead of supply by 70,000 tonnes per year and because tea producers such as India, Sri Lanka and Kenya (the second, third and fourth biggest tea producers) are having droughts which threaten reducing production even further.

But hang on a minute, the deficit is only 1.9%. If someone told me that I'd have to forgo one cup of tea in fifty because we were running out, I wouldn't be that upset. In fact, I'd feel better if we spent a little more on tea because with prices rising, the producers and pickers might earn a little more. I'm not an expert in economics, so you might shoot me down on that one, but in any case, it's hardly a tragedy or "The new oil" as the BBC are intent on suggesting.

The second news item to attack tea was also featured in the BBC, as well as the Daily Mirror and the Los Angeles Times. A study was done on people in the northern Iranian province of Golestan, where people are apparently known for drinking hot tea. A strong link was found between increased levels of oesophageal cancer and those who drank their tea at hot temperatures. This is obviously horrific and terrible. However, just because the study was done on tea-drinkers, it doesn't mean it only applies to tea. The study was done on tea-drinkers because so many people near the university in Iran drink tea, no other reason. The authors themselves pointed out that there has been suggestion in other studies that all hot drinks could cause cancer, citing articles linking between hot alcoholic beverages and oesophageal cancer, and describing damage done by hot drinks in general.

In any case, it only really becomes a problem is at very high temperatures (65 degrees minumum) whereas the english tend to have milk and therefore drink it colder (apparently).

What this article says is
"be careful not to scald yourself on hot drinks"

Because you could scald your throat, not just your mouth. Scientifically it's more than that, and I don't want to demean the work of the scientists, because it is an interesting study and talks about long term risks, not just short term ones. However, in terms of advice to the public, it shouldn't change much. Don't burn yourself, it's not complicated, and it doesn't mean that tea is terrible because it burns you when it's hot. So do not fear.

It was a great journal article too, because of some splendid phrases that you could only find in a scientific journal. They are totally awesome dude...

"all patients underwent oesophagogastroduodenoscopy"

"Our study found that almost everyone in Golestan Province
drinks tea."


Rachel said...

Heh, I wondered if you would write about this. How are you? I have been thinking about you a fair bit because I've discovered there is a John at my work who is very like you! It's almost spooky. He only looks a little bit like you though. There's someone else who reminds me a lot of Dan C as well. The people around me must have to conform to some kind of template, I think, and if they don't then they get conformed...

Funnily enough, there was another article on the BBC top ten list yesterday that was dredged up from 2007. "Oral sex link to cancer!" What that article said was, "A virus that has been shown to cause cancer can cause cancer." Err, yes...?

PS My CAPTCHA for this comment is "sharesse". How pretty :)

roz said...

john, you are funny :-)