News & tips on health, fitness and nutrition

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Drinking Tea Can Lower Your Levels of Iron

With its bounty of antioxidants and relatively moderate levels of caffeine, tea is one of the healthiest beverages around. But 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 can 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 about 85 percent.


But 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.
Because most Americans generally get more iron from their diets than needed, a daily cup or two of coffee or tea is unlikely to lead to low levels of iron.


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