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Frequently Asked Questions

 


Can drinking tea reduce the absorption of iron, contributing to low red cell counts and iron-deficiency anemia?

There are research studies showing that tea drinking reduces the absorption of non-heme iron (that form found in plants as opposed to heme iron found in meats). A recent review of all these types of studies has also recommended that those people at risk for developing anemia limit their tea drinking to between meals or one hour after a meal. (Impact of tea drinking on iron status in the UK: a review, Nelson M, Poulter J. , Hum Nutr Diet. 2004 Feb;17(1):43-54.)

However, another study has shown that 50 mg of vitamin C in a meal can overcome the anti-absorptive activity that molecules like tannins and ligands exhert on non-heme iron in foods. (Effect of ascorbic acid on iron absorption from different types of meals. Studies with ascorbic-acid-rich foods and synthetic ascorbic acid given in different amounts with different meals, Hallberg L, Brune M, Rossander L. , Hum Nutr Appl Nutr. 40(2):97-113, 1986.)

Therefore, my final recommendations to optimize iron absorption for people consuming a plant-based diet would be to:

  1. make sure that each meal contains at least 50 mg of vitamin C (easy to do with fresh fruits and veggies at each meal)
  2. limit tea drinking to between meals, or at least an hour after the meal is completed.

While I try to follow these guidelines, I am not strict with them, frequently drinking iced green tea with my meals. I regularly drink 4 cups (1 quart) of freshly brewed green tea per day, about half with meals and half between meals. My most recent hemoglobin level (June 2004) was above the lower end of the normal limits (normal range for women 12-16, mine was 13), and that has been achieved without consuming any of the usual high iron animal products like red meats for 9+ years, no iron supplements of any kind, and a "sluggish" bone marrow function.

It is important to remember that anemia has many causes. Only your doctor can determine the reason(s) behind your low red cell counts. Do not consume any iron supplements, folic acid, or vitamin B12 supplements without having a correct diagnosis, recommendation/prescription, and appropriate monitoring by your personal health care professionals.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

faq posted 8/04


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Tea

Tea Does decaffeinated green tea still have the health promoting phytochemical called Epigallo-catechin-gallate (EGCG)? posted 1/01
Tea What other teas are healthful to drink in addition to green tea?
Tea Is white tea better than green tea for cancer patients? posted 2/03
Tea Can green tea capsules increase chance of bleeding and bruising for any type of surgery? posted 8/03
Tea Is it safe to drink green tea if I have a port for administration of
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posted 1/04
Tea Can drinking tea reduce the absorption of iron, contributing to low red cell counts and iron-deficiency anemia? posted 8/04
Tea Do flavored green teas have the same anti-cancer activity as plain green tea? posted 10/04
Tea Should I be avoiding all caffeine to help fight my breast cancer?
posted 11/04
 
Tea Does adding milk to tea reduce its anti-cancer benefit? posted 11/04
Tea What you think about the Jason Winters tea? posted 5/05
Tea Should I stop drinking green tea during chemotherapy to avoid consuming too many antioxidants? posted 7/05

 


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These questions and answers are intended to be of a general informative nature. Please consult with the Registered Dietitian in your cancer center or your health care provider for nutritional advice that can be individualized to your specific medical condition.

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Phone/Fax: 734/996-9260

P.O. Box 130221, Ann Arbor, MI  48113

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