DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Teas are now said to be so very good for one’s health and for every imaginable problem – weight loss, cancer, heart disease, etc. But what kind? In what form? I was told that tea bags are no good. – C.M.

ANSWER: Every kind of tea comes from the same plant. The way tea is processed makes it black or green tea. For green tea, the leaves of the plant are steamed immediately upon harvesting. For black tea, the leaves are left alone for days and, during that time, fermentation takes place and the tea becomes black.

Both green tea and black tea contain flavonoids. They are antioxidants, natural substances that stop cellular oxidation, the biological equivalent of rusting. Oxidation has a hand in hardening arteries and perhaps in generating cancer. It has a definite hand in aging the body.

One particular kind of flavonoid is catechin. Green tea has more of it than black tea.

Recently, a large tea company wanted to put on its packages of green tea a blurb that said green tea lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol and lessens the chances of having a heart attack. The FDA would not permit this because the evidence supporting those claims wasn’t sufficient to make such blanket statements.

A fresh-off-the-press article from Japan provides support for the claim that green tea can lower a person’s chances of dying prematurely from all causes, including heart attacks but not including cancer.

I take this to mean that, at present, green tea has the edge over black.

You can use tea bags or loose tea leaves to brew your tea.

You shouldn’t get too carried away with all this. Tea, regardless of the type, isn’t going to restore youth and bestow immortality. Nothing is.

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