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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Have another cuppa

21 March 2017

Some of the most interesting medical research to surface in recent years relates to the healthy effects of a good old cuppa.

Coffee seems to have incredibly powerful health benefits in a wide range of areas and now tea seems to be gaining ground as a "must have" health supplement.

The latest reports suggest that a single cup of tea (green or regular) each day can reduce the chances of cognitive decline in old age by as much as 50 percent within the general population and as much as 86 percent within the group who have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's.

With that kind of evidence, it becomes pretty hard not to include a cuppa in your regular schedule, doesn't it?

Of course I'm pretty sure that the large drug companies will not be best pleased at this kind of research. Hell, they don't want you scoffing a few hundred ml of Choysa to avoid dementia when they have some wonderfully expensive patented potions to sell you once you get it.

However, all may not be as it seems.

For a start, the test group was composed primarily of elderly Chinese folk and the study simply claims that "the results could apply to other races as well".

"Could"?

Hmmm... "could" isn't the kind of word you want to bet money on is it?

Only our local council would dare to commit millions to studies that are littered with non-committal terminology such as "if", "assuming" and "hopefully" (yes, it's true, the SWDC plans to spend $2.5m based on a study that is almost wholly filled with such words).

As a long-time cynic, I wonder if the very reason that imbibing in the regular consumption of tea seems to reduce the incidence of cognitive decline in this group is because their long-term consumption of this beverage has produced a chemical dependency which results in cognitive decline when not met by a daily cuppa.

That's the problem with all such studies... it's so easy to confuse cause and effect then draw the wrong conclusion.

I'm pretty sure that the tea industry will be all over this report like flies and will be using aspects of it in their marketing campaigns very shortly. After all, I've even seen red wine being promoted for the amazing effects of the resveratrol that it contains -- even though the actual research suggests you'd have to drink hundreds of bottles a day to gain any benefit.

With the growing tendency to "exaggerate" the facts for commercial gain, exactly what can you believe?

I know that I take a mini-dose of aspirin (70mg) each day because the studies do seem to provide very strong evidence that it reduces the risk of stroke and cancer by a measurable degree with little risk of other side-effects. The only other supplement I take regularly is a garlic and horseradish tablet which keeps my sinuses in shape -- rather important because otherwise I get regular sinus infections which can be nasty!

So what other supplements or dietary changes have readers made as a result of the claims being made by marketers or as a result of their own research and scrutiny of "studies" such as the one linked to at the top of today's column?

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