Student - February 21, 2008

No anaemia from tea for South Africans

South Africans don’t have to worry about drinking tea. A Wageningen researcher came to this conclusion while doing research for her MSc thesis at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. Contrary to what nutritionists assumed from lab experiments, tea does not reduce the amount of iron in the blood of South Africans.

Pleunie Hogenkamp, now working in the sub-department of Human Nutrition, examined the relation between the consumption of black tea and anaemia among the local population in the northwest of South Africa. ‘After water, tea is the most common drink worldwide,’ says Hogenkamp. ‘One cup of tea contains about two grams of polyphenols, which form a complex with iron in the stomach. The human body cannot absorb the iron complex. If you give people a cup of tea with a meal under laboratory conditions, they absorb twelve percent less iron. In South Africa black tea is commonly drunk at a meal. That’s why we wanted to know whether drinking tea increases the chance of anaemia.’

This was not the case, Hogenkamp discovered. Although fifteen percent of the women had an iron deficiency in their blood, the men and women who drunk the most tea had an even higher iron content in their blood than normal. ‘Maybe South Africans don’t drink tea that often with food after all,’ says Hogenkamp, thinking out loud. ‘The data we have don’t say anything about this. They only tell us how much tea people drink, not when. But from our research we can conclude that it’s not necessary to advise South Africans to stop drinking tea.’

Hogenkamp’s research will be published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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