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Are Bottled Tea Drinks as Healthy as Brewed Tea?

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Question: Are Bottled Tea Drinks as Healthy as Brewed Tea?
Reader Question: I would like to know if drinking bottled tea beverages are as beneficial as brewing green tea. Thank you.
Answer: The bottled tea drink market has exploded in recent years: companies such as AriZona carry a varied assortment of black and green tea drinks - many have powerful herbs such as ginseng thrown in for added health benefits. They're a great thirst-quencher on a hot day at the beach or after a workout at the gym.

Still, this begs the question: is it really wise to store the teakettle in the cupboard for the summer? Just how healthy are bottled tea drinks compared to brewed tea?

Studies indicate that bottled tea drinks aren't a substitute for brewed tea. It all comes down to polyphenols - powerful anti-oxidants that both kill and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Bottled tea drinks contain a lower amount of polyphenols than brewed tea. An October, 2005 news release by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University (OSU) states that some bottled tea products they studied “have levels of polyphenols and antioxidant activity 10 to 100 times lower than conventionally brewed tea, regardless of whether they are based on green teas or the white teas that supposedly have more health value.”

In a February 2000 article in USA Today, a researcher with the United States Department of Agriculture stated that: "Bottled tea has very low levels of polyphenols." Similar results have been obtained by researchers at the University of Kansas, and by Consumer Reports.

Why do bottled tea drinks contain fewer anti-oxidants than brewed tea? One culprit is the amount of sugar and water contained in the drinks: the OSU news release goes on to state that: “Many of the currently available cold bottled teas sold in the U.S. are more like diluted sugar water than something that will help protect your health.” In addition, some bottled tea drinks are made with powdered, instead of brewed, tea.

Still, the news isn’t all bad. Depending on the type of tea used and how it is brewed, the level of anti-oxidants in bottled tea drinks may be comparable to fruits and vegetables. (In fact, some of the anti-oxidants found in bottled tea drinks may be due more to fruit flavorings that are added than the tea itself). Furthermore, you may still be getting health benefits from other ingredients in the tea besides antioxidants.

So, enjoy bottled tea drinks when you're out by all means, but for maximum health benefits make your own tea at home. This can include tea brewed from bags or loose leaves or even iced tea made from freshly brewed tea. Besides increased polyphenol levels, an added plus is that you can control the amount of sugar and other ingredients contained in the drink.

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