Before you start delving into this article, I want you to go brew a cup of your favorite tea, sit in a comfortable chair, and get a little Zen with me. Because I want to discuss the health benefits of tea. Specifically, purple tea.
If you haven’t heard about this type of tea, that’s not surprising. It’s only been available in the U.S. for three years. But new studies show that purple tea may be even more powerful than the green and black varieties. Especially for two of today’s top troublemakers: obesity and Alzheimer’s disease/dementia.
The secret is in where it’s grown…
Why is purple tea better than other teas at fighting disease? A lot of it has to do with where it grows.
This special variety of tea was developed in Kenya at an elevation between 4,500 and 7,500 feet. It’s cooler at those heights, which allows purple tea to thrive in an equatorial region where intense ultraviolet light wreaks havoc on other botanicals. Those UV rays have some advantages, though. They cause purple tea plants to produce high levels of two compounds: anthocyanins and polyphenols.
These compounds help protect tea leaves from damage. And when humans ingest those leaves, we’re protected from a whole host of serious diseases.
More disease fighters than other teas
Let me just whet your appetite with some of the highlights that make purple tea my new tea of choice:
A unique polyphenol. Purple tea has substantially more polyphenols than green or black teas. (16.5 percent, compared to 10.1 percent for black tea and 9.1 percent for green tea). It also has a polyphenol called GHG that’s not found in other tea varieties. GHG may be the compound responsible for purple tea’s anti-obesity effects, which I’ll tell you about a little later.
More anthocyanins than blueberries. Purple tea gets its color from anthocyanins—just like blueberries, raspberries, and other red or purple foods. Blueberries are particularly rich in anthocyanins, which have been shown in studies to help fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive issues. But purple tea has a much higher content of anthocyanins than blueberries—1.5 percent compared to 0.1 percent.
A whopping amount of antioxidants. Purple tea has greater antioxidant activity than green and black teas. Research shows it has a free-radical scavenging rate of 52 percent, compared with 34 percent for green tea and 28 percent for black tea. And the more free radicals that antioxidants attack in your body, the less likely you are to get chronic diseases.
Scientific proof it helps with weight loss and brain health. What makes purple tea even more appealing to me is it has clinical trials to back up its claims.
An extract of purple tea with GHG has been shown in two human studies to support weight loss. It decreased body mass index, fat mass, hip size, waist size, and subcutaneous-fat thickness while improving body composition and lean body mass.
The researchers think one of the ways it does this is by inhibiting lipase, the enzyme that breaks down fats so our body can more easily digest them.
Another reason I’m so excited about purple tea is its potential benefits for brain health. Research shows that catechins, found in high levels in purple tea, are neuroprotective antioxidants that can actually permeate the brain. This is thrilling because not much is able to pass the so-called blood-brain barrier.
In a study done on mice, Kenyan purple tea significantly boosted brain antioxidant capacity. And notably, the researchers found that purple tea anthocyanins can cross the blood-brain barrier, reinforcing the brain’s antioxidant capacity.
If this research can be replicated in humans, imagine the implications. Extra antioxidants in the brain could help modulate conditions associated with oxidative stress, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and multiple sclerosis.
The fluoride-free way to drink purple tea
Purple tea has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor that’s been compared to peonies. You can brew it like any other tea. But there’s a specific way I think you should do that brewing— based on a new study that shows rates of hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) are nearly twice as high in communities that use fluoridated water. (Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, depression, lack of energy, constipation, and other problems.)
Since we all brew tea with water, and usually tap water, if you are concerned about fluoride or your thyroid, here is something you need to consider…
Tea plants are super efficient at picking up fluoride from soil, and then storing high concentrations in their leaves.
As a result, some studies show that home-brewed tea can deliver 113 percent more fluoride than the CDC recommends in drinking water. And some commercial iced-tea mixes can exceed recommended levels by as much as 225 percent. This problem doesn’t occur with herbal teas, which are up to 185 times lower in fluoride.
So whenever possible, I recommend using non-commercially processed, organic purple tea leaves (they may be hard to find in your local tea shop, but they’re available online). Triple brew the leaves with bottled, still mineral water to get all of purple tea’s health benefits with less of the worrisome fluoride.
And of course, like green tea, supplements that contain purple tea extract are now becoming available. They may be difficult to find now, but I am working on securing a direct source in the future and will let you know as soon as I have more details. Keep an eye on the Weekly Digests, and check out my daily Reality Health Check eletter for regular updates. Just visit my website www.drpescatore.com to sign up along the right-hand side of the home page.
“Total polyphenols, catechin profiles and antioxidant activity of tea products from purple leaf coloured tea cultivars.” Food Chem. 2013 Feb 15;136(3-4):1405-13.
Oryza Purple Tea Extract. http://www.oryza.co.jp/html/english/.
“Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England? A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water.” J Epidemiol Community Health. 2015 Feb 24. pii: jech-2014-204971.
Fluoride Action Network. http://fluoridealert.org.
Dr. Fred Pescatore is the author of the New York Times best-selling book, The Hamptons Diet and the No. 1 best-selling children’s health book, Feed Your Kids Well, amongst others. He is the President of the International and American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists, a member of the American College for the Advancement of Medicine, and belongs to many other professional organizations. Earlier in his career, Dr. Pescatore served as the Associate Medical Director of The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine, working as the right-hand-man to the late, great Dr. Robert C. Atkins. Today he sees patients at his own practice in Manhattan and writes a monthly newsletter called Logical Health Alternatives, as well as a free e-letter called The Reality Health Check.