Good Health Choices Gone Bad — The Green Tea Conspiracy

Green tea is amazing...when prepared and consumed correctly.
Green tea is amazing…when prepared and consumed correctly.

Green tea is one of the most amazing things you can put in your body.  Studies, as well as just good old ancient Chinese knowledge, continue to bombard us with why we should all be going out of our way to make sure we get this antioxidant-filled herbal tea into our diets.  However, anytime science and medicine want to make it known to the general public that something occurring naturally is good for us, there are capitalist wolves at the door waiting to find a way to market the product and make profit off of it any way possible.  Unfortunately, not all companies are known for being scrupulous in such matters, and that is why we label this as a conspiracy that you need to know about.  You see, too many Americans believe they are doing something good for their body whilst only adding more chemical and sugar-filled substances that masquerade as “healthy alternatives.”

Before we get into an example of good health choices gone bad, let’s look at what makes green tea so amazing to begin with.  Green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly one that has a really, long scientific name but most people just refer to as EGCG.  This is one of the most powerful known antioxidants, and it has the curious superpower of killing cancer cells in the human body without harming healthy tissue.  Something that modern medicine has a lot of trouble doing.  After all, cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy may get the cancer, but they usually do a substantial amount of damage on healthy cells as well.  The answer is inside these EGCG polyphenols, and they are cheap, easily accessible, and involve no risk whatsoever.

Besides the cancer battle, green tea is also proven to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels.  It also helps with heart disease and blood clots.  Blood clots that form suddenly is the most common cause of a heart attack, so once again, green tea has proven to be quite the lifesaver, pardon the pun.  And you don’t need a wealth of scientific data to get to the bottom of this.  Scientists scratched their heads over why different cultures showed lower incidences of heart disease despite their diets.  For example, take the French.  They are known for a diet full of saturated fat…all those great cheese and pastries…and yet, they come out better in the long run heart-wise than the average American.  Add to that a higher rate of smokers, too, still coming out better than Americans. The reason was not green tea, but the love of red wine with almost every meal.  A chemical in the red wine called resveratrol is known to combat the effects of fat and smoking on the heart.  Well, green tea’s EGCG is very similar, except for the fact that it is twice as powerful at what it does.  So, it’s pretty easy to see that green tea has a powerful bang for the buck, and it also explains why heart disease in the Japanese culture is extremely low.  Did you know that 75% of Japanese men smoke compulsively?  They also drink green tea like Americans drink soda.  The result:  amazingly low heart disease rate.

So, yeah, yeah, green tea is good for you.  What is the big conspiracy here?  Well, Americans are getting the word of the huge medicinal benefits of green tea from doctors, media, the Internet, and word of mouth.  What they are not being educated on is that not all green teas are created equal.  And companies have caught on to the American love affair with convenience and things tasting good that reigns supreme over any health benefits.  So, people stock up on bottled green teas thinking they are getting all those benefits.  Let’s take Pepsi’s Lipton Green Tea as an example.  This is not the only one out there, by far, but it is a very popular item in the new “health-conscious” America and sells very well by the caseload.

Does Lipton bottled green tea have green tea in it?  Absolutely.  However, it is a proven fact that the longer time gap between the brewing of green tea and consumption, the less of the above benefits to be enjoyed.  The fact that Lipton infuses a barrage of chemicals you can’t pronounce to “preserve freshness” has nothing to do with the important thing here…the antioxidant count.  Bottom line:  green tea is not something you want to buy in bottles.  You need to brew it yourself and then drink it in a timely manner.  As a matter of fact, reports state that the polyphenols decline after just three or four days of sitting in the fridge.  Imagine how useless Lipton is when it might be months before it makes its way to your mouth.  That alone is reason enough to go for the teabags and not the bottled variety, but it gets worse.  Take a look at Lipton the next time you think about purchasing it.  What is the number two ingredient after water?

Sodium hexa-what?
Sodium hexa-what?

High fructose corn syrup.  In case you didn’t know already, the ingredients are listed in the order by how much is in the product.  Green tea does come in fourth after sodium hexatemaphosphate.  On top of that, we get a little potassium sorb ate, phosphoric acid, acesulfame potassium, calcium disodium efta, a touch of honey (hmm…more sugar) and caramel coloring.  A little Yellow 5 and Blue 1 to lighten it up a bit.

If you opt for the diet version, you’ll miss out on the high fructose corn syrup, but you’ll be bombarded with aspartame or sucralose to make sure you keep coming back for more.  These chemicals may or may not be bad for you, but real green tea has only one ingredient.  You guessed it…green tea.  Think about it.  Lipton can’t even put real natural sugar in it, opting instead for high fructose corn syrup, which pretty much everyone is aware is not a good choice.

Why do this?  Profit.  These ingredients are cheap, make sure the tea stays good longer so they can sell through it, and makes it taste good to the consumer to make sure you’ll be back for more.  Throw in the guise of a “health benefit” and the convenience factor, and you have a household staple for many Americans who believe they are doing something good for themselves.  The shame should go to Lipton.  Do they make any false claims on the package?  Nope.  They simply are capitalizing on a health craze by offering the product, knowing full well that people will buy it because the price is right, the taste is good, and their doctor told them they needed it.

Yes, you could make the argument that drinking the green tea may be slightly better than downing some soda, but is this giving you everything you could be getting from the real thing?

Convenience is great, but not if you lose everything in translation.  While we do accuse Lipton of cashing in on public perception, it is still the public’s fault for not getting the facts before making that purchase.  So, ditch the plastic bottles and get some tea bags.  Add a little natural sugar if you can’t stomach the plain tea taste.  Add a little honey, maybe a slice of lemon.  But leave out the sodium hexatemaphosphate.  You’ll be better off without it.