Dear Doc: I drink lots of green tea. Every day I have a couple of cups. Not only do I drink it for the lovely flavor, but also because I heard it has health benefits. What’s the scoop? — U.B., from Jacksonville
Dear U.B.: Green tea is an Asian salubrient, thought to bring vim, vigor and good health. Recent research on mice published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry shows that the wisdom of the Chinese might just be right.
The studies involved mice. All were fed a typical American diet featuring the equivalent of burgers and fries. Half received a green tea extract (those little mice fingers just couldn’t hold a cup and saucer of real green tea).
The tea-fed mice were less likely to become obese and not as likely to develop insulin resistance, a critical factor in the development of diabetes. They also had more natural gut flora.
We are just beginning to realize the importance of gut bacteria. Some believe the obesity epidemic we have today is from a bad gut biome — bacteria that basically increase our appetite, thus putting on the pounds. Some think eating all that fried food and consuming drinks made with high fructose corn syrup and other sweet carbohydrates are the culprits.
My spin: Green tea is great. It’s great if it keeps you from drinking any sweetened drink, and this research shows it might be great for your health. If you’ve never tried it, then brew a cup. Drink it hot or over ice.
Anything that keeps us from sweet drinks is good for our health.
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Now for good news on heart attacks. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, since the 1990s hospitalizations for heart attacks have dropped by 38% and deaths from heart attacks have dropped by 12%.
These, dear readers, are amazing statistics. The numbers are real — they come from examining 20 years of data from millions of people on Medicare.
Why are heart attacks on the decline? Less smoking, better food, more exercise, better blood pressure and cholesterol control. Basically, it’s technology and lifestyle — the twin pillars of good health.
We’ve come far but we have a long way to go.
Recently, my wife, Penelope, and I were in London, Paris and Madrid. It was a holiday for us. One of the first things you notice in Europe is how thin everyone is. Not that they’re skinny, they’re just thin — as thin as we in the U.S. were back in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
We started slowing down sometime in the ’80s, when fast food, artificial sweeteners, prepared foods loaded with salt, sugar and fat — all cheap to buy — started rearing their ugly head.
When you eat in a Parisian restaurant, the portions are a minimum of 30% smaller than in American restaurants, for the same price. And when they eat their food, they linger over it, not wolfing it down as many do in fast food joints.
My spin: We’re doing fine, but we can do better. When it comes to the obesity epidemic, changes start with portion size and end with nutritious food. Learn how to cook, learn how to plate and you’ll live longer. Stay well.
This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.