Next to water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world and for good reason. Numerous studies have linked the consumption of tea to reduced cancer and cardiovascular risks as well as a way to prevent Alzheimer's disease. But despite its well-researched health benefits, some scientists warn that sipping certain varieties of teas can pose serious health risks.
"This is a good example of the fact that just because something is natural, it doesn't mean that it's always safe all the time for everyone," Dr. Ellen Kamhi, author of "The Natural Medicine Chest," tells Newsmax. "That being said, natural remedies such as tea still have a far better safety profile than any of the most commonly used drugs."
Here are some of the precautions to take if you're a "tea-totaller."
Green tea can cause stomach cramping and upset if it's taken on an empty stomach. People in China and Japan have used this healing tea for centuries but always drink it with food. Green tea contains caffeine, which may cause insomnia and nervous agitation, says Kamhi. "It can also interfere with iron uptake, which can lead to anemia if you take more than three cups a day."
A blockbuster study from the Journal of Toxicology revealed that all 30 brands of tea they tested had high amounts of lead, which can cause heart, kidney, and reproductive problems. One study revealed that teas with added citric acid had elevated aluminum, cadmium, and lead. Lemon tea bags produced levels up to 70% higher!
Other studies on tea found that the fluoride levels in economy teas were three times higher than those in pricier brands. "The higher-priced teas were observed to have lower levels of fluoride," says researcher Laura Chan, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom. "This was probably due to the way the leaves were harvested and processed." Too much fluoride can damage teeth, bones, and joints.
Dr. Gerry Schwarfenberg M.D., of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, says to stay safe, "keep brew time under three minutes and avoid tea from regions that are more contaminated like China, India and Sri Lanka.
"Tea from China has high levels of lead and aluminum, likely from contaminated soil due to coal fired power plants," he says. "Consider opting for white tea because the leaves are young and have less time to absorb heavy metals."
Serve tea in a glass instead of a china cup, which may also contain lead.
Use tea leaves instead of bags especially when drinking lemon teas. Powder-based lemon tea in bags is usually of worse quality than tea leaves, say experts. Again, brew tea for less time and hold off adding the lemon until you've removed the leaves. When you add lemon to the leaves, it lowers the pH and more noxious metals are extracted from the tea.
To reduce fluoride exposure, buy the more expensive brands of tea, especially if you drink more than four cups daily. Chan recommends consuming pure blends like Ceylon, Oolong, or Darjeeling and not drinking on an empty stomach.
Mix it up. Researchers recommend drinking different brands of tea to minimize your risk of toxicity. For example, drink peppermint tea from different companies. The least contaminated teas appear to be pure fruit teas and chamomile teas.
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