Adding milk won't lessen the health benefits of tea

People's Pharmacy

July 07, 2002|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,Special to the Sun; King Features Syndicate

Q. I am a tea drinker -- green, black and herbals. I grew up putting milk in my black tea, but I drink iced tea and herbals unadulterated.

I overheard a conversation in which someone said putting milk in tea destroys the healthful benefits of the phytochemicals. Is this a fact? If it does have some effect, does it completely negate all the benefits of the black tea?

A. Don't worry about the milk in your black tea. According to Jeffrey Blumberg, chief of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University, milk doesn't interfere substantially with those beneficial plant chemicals.

Recent research has confirmed that the antioxidant compounds in tea can be good for you. Controlled studies have shown that tea drinkers are less likely to die from heart attacks. There are also studies suggesting that green tea might have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activity.

Q. I am 15 years old and very active. I play tennis in the morning and soccer at night. I also suffer from bad leg cramps while at soccer. It has happened twice in the past three weeks. It might not seem like a lot, but I never used to get these.

What is causing the cramps? How do I prevent them? How do I treat them?

A. It's hard to know why you have suddenly started getting leg cramps, but they can sometimes be prevented with extra minerals.

Some people find that foods rich in potassium can help. One reader said: "Having always had jobs where I was on my feet, I got leg cramps often. A doctor friend suggested surgical stockings, but they didn't help very much. Another friend told me to eat bananas. I ate one a day, and my leg cramps disappeared like a miracle."

If bananas don't help, magnesium (100 or 200 milligrams) might. Don't take too much, though, since it can cause diarrhea.

Some people find that a glass of tonic water helps prevent leg cramps. The quinine in tonic is the key ingredient. Anyone who experiences rash, nausea, ringing in the ears or changes in color vision from drinking quinine should avoid it, however.

The best treatment for a leg cramp is to stretch the muscle gently. Ask your coach about stretches for calves and hamstrings. Also make sure you're drinking enough fluids. If your cramps continue, see your doctor.

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