Tea Consumption and Iron Absorption

Tea consumption has received much press lately regarding its effect on the bodies ability to successfully absorb iron. The good news is most healthy people who are not iron deficient and are considered “healthy” don’t have much to worry about if they’re tea drinkers and were considering changing their tea drinking habits.

The most common nutritional deficiency worldwide is the lack of iron stemming from improper nutrition. Iron is needed by the body to carry out many metabolic processes; ultimately, when deprived of iron, a person is at a higher risk of being diagnosed with anemia.

Here are some interesting facts regarding iron and tea consumption:

Dietary Iron Sources

Iron comes from two distinct sources:

Haem Iron originates from an animal product and is found in meat, liver, and meat products. 20% to 40% of haem iron from the food source is absorbed into the body when ingested.

Non-haem originates from plant foods such as cereal, vegetables, fruit, dried fruits etc… This type of iron is considered poorly absorbed and around 5% of the non-haem iron from these food sources is actually absorbed into the body. So…

Heam iron – hemoglobin and myoglobin of animals – easily absorbed

Non-haem iron – plant foods – not as easily absorbed

Tea Drinking and Iron Absorption

The actual component that blocks the absorption of iron into the body is a “Phenolic compound” found in tea, coffee, red wine and leafy vegetables.

Non-haem iron is more influenced by tea consumption than haem iron. This means that diets that rely on iron intake from cereal, vegetables, nuts, fruits as a total source of nutrition may be negatively impacted by tea drinking than diets rely on haem iron sources like red meats and animal products.

Also, haem iron present in foods like meat, offal and meat products are readily absorbed and tea drinking has no real effect on iron absorption.

Practical Advice for Tea Drinkers Concerned About Iron Absorption

  • There is no real evidence to suggest that tea drinking will adversely affect iron absorption if you are not at risk for iron deficiency and are eating a well-balanced diet.
  • Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron while eating. So, why not try drinking orange or grapefruit juice with meals to aid in absorbing iron.
  • Evidence confirms that certain age groups are more likely to have poor “iron status” ie.. children under 6, adolescent girls, women between age 18-49, and women over 75 years of age.
  • If you’re at risk for iron deficiency you should avoid drinking tea with meals, however…
  • 3-4 cups of tea daily spread out over the day (not at meal time)has a very little effect on iron absorption
  • Tea has many other health benefits so 3-4 cups daily may promote these as well

Summary…

Tea drinkers shouldn’t worry about the adverse effects of iron absorption unless they are within one of the at-risk group for iron deficiency. If you think you are at risk consult your physician prior to consuming tea, otherwise enjoy the many health benefits associated with, for example, oolong tea drinking.

Adverse effects of Wu-Long Tea

Wu-Long Tea – Caffeine

All Teas naturally contain “caffeine” so if caffiene intake is an issue you may want to know how drinking Wu-long tea can effect you regarding caffeine consumption.

Wu-Long tea typically has about half the caffeine content of the same amount of coffee.

The following is the approximate caffeine content of various beverages:

Beverage Milligrams of Caffeine
AVG per serving Per OZ.
Coffee 5 oz. cup 80 13.00
Cola (12 oz. can) 45 3.75
Black Tea 40 5.00
Wu-Long Tea 30 3.75
Green Tea 20 2.5
White Tea 15 2.00
Decaf Tea 2 .50
Herbal Tea 0 0.00

Summary – Tea and Adverse effects regarding Caffeine

During the past decade, extensive research on caffeine in relation to cardiovascular disease, fibrocystic breast disease, reproductive function, behavior in children, birth defects, and cancer has identified no significant health hazard from normal caffeine consumption.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has conducted research and reviewed the extensive scientific literature on caffeine. In a Federal Register notice published in May 1987, the FDA stated that the agency had reviewed ” studies on teratology, reproduction behavior, carcinogenicity, and cardiovascular disease…but found no evidence to show that the use of caffeine in carbonated beverages would render theses beverages injurious to health.” The American Medical Association has examined the research on caffeine and came to a similarly confident position on its safety. A 1984 report from AMA Council on Scientific Affairs stated, ” Moderate tea or coffee drinkers probably need to have no concern for their health relative to their caffeine consumption provided other lifestyle habits (diet, alcohol consumption) are moderate, as well.”
 (Ref.: International Food Information Council)

Other Health Concerns Regarding Tea Consumption

If you have Hyperthyroidism – Graves Disease – consult your physician before consuming any food or drink that may aggrevate this condition. This includes all teas .

In general, people should consult their physician prior to consuming tea if they suffer from these conditions:

  • stomach ulcers
  • heart problems
  • hyperthyroidism
  • psychological disorders

Pregnant women should also avoid tea and/or consult their physician prior to consuming tea or tea products

Green tea should also be avoided if one is taking any of the following medications:

  • anti-biotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Beta blockers
  • blood thinning medicines
  • chemotherapy
  • oral contraceptives
  • lithium

Tea and Thyroid Conditions

We cannot provide specific medical advice regarding your specific condition as it relates to tea or any tea related product as we are not physicians however we can recommend some online sources that deal specifically with thyroid conditions: related to tea consumption:
www.ithyroid.com
thyroid.about.com