Monday, 27 July 2009

Should You Put The Kettle On?

The claim: Drinking tea can lower your levels of iron.

The facts: With its bounty of antioxidants and relatively moderate levels of caffeine, tea is one of the healthiest beverages around. However, drinking tea is said to block the body’s absorption of dietary iron, potentially causing a deficiency.

Studies have shown that there is some truth to the idea. Compounds in tea called tannins can act as chelators, binding to minerals and inhibiting the body’s ability to absorb them. Although that an reduce a person’s levels of iron, studies have also found that it is unlikely to have much of an impact.

In one study, scientists examined the effect by having people eat a typical meal – a hamburger, string beans and mashed potatoes – and then measuring their iron levels after the meal was combined with various drinks.

When the subjects ate the meal with tea, there was a 62 percent reduction in iron absorption. Drinking coffee resulted in a 35 percent reduction. Orange juice increased iron absorption by a bout 85 percent.

However, there was a twist. Coffee and tea affected only the levels of non-heme iron, the kind found in grains and vegetables. Heme iron, found in meat, fish and poultry, was unaffected.

If you get enough iron or more is needed from your diet, a daily cup of two of coffee or tea is unlikely to lead to low levels of iron.

The bottom line: Compounds in coffee and tea can affect iron absorption.

- The New York Times 

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