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Excessive Tea Drinking in the Senior Years

Tea drinking is not just a culinary practice. It is just as much a social habit and even a form of addiction. However, it is accepted as the norm in many countries and among many cultures across the globe. However, excessive consumption of tea may have a host of adverse effects on the body which may not be as much of a concern for younger people, but can be a problem among the elderly. It is not about entirely avoiding tea but rather about controlling the quantity of tea that is consumed daily. All too often, you may drink as much tea as you desire under the false assumption that it is a completely safe drink. But like anything, “too much can be bad for you”.

Misconceptions About Tea

Here are some misconceptions about tea that often contributes to excessive tea drinking:

  • Tea has very little caffeine when compared to coffee. This is dependent on many factors but an 8oz cup of brewed black tea can have between 15 to 60mg of caffeine compared to between 30mg to 150mg of caffeine in a cup of instant coffee. In other words some brands of tea may have as much if not more caffeine than coffee.
  • Green tea has no caffeine. Actually an 8oz cup of green tea has between 25 to 40mg of caffeine.
  • Tea is not a stimulant like coffee. It is the caffeine in coffee that is a stimulant and since tea has caffeine, it is also a stimulant.
  • Tea is nutritious. Black unsweetened tea has 0 to 2 calories. The average adult male needs about 2,500 calories per day while women require about 2,000 calories daily. It is the sugar and milk/cream which gives tea most of its nutrition although this is minimal.
  • Tea does not affect the body’s nutrition. In fact tea can alter the way your body absorbs and utilizes nutrients, especially iron.
  • Tea is safer than coffee for patients with cardiac problems. Tea, like coffee, is a diuretic and promotes the loss of fluids and electrolytes which can affect blood pressure and heart contractility. In addition, the caffeine in tea can also increase heart rate and blood pressure.

This is not to say that tea is bad for you. But understanding the facts about tea. moderating intake and ensuring that tea is not used to replace any part of a healthy diet is important.

Tea Drinking Can Be A Problem

The main problem with tea drinking in the senior years is that tea is sometimes used as a major part of daily nourishment. This is seen with the tea and toast diet that has become common among the elderly across the globe. A lack of appetite, dental problems, inability to prepare meals, ignorance about nutrition and sometimes even financial constraints drives seniors to opt for beverages like tea as part of their daily calorie intake. However, this is a major problem because tea has so little nutrition.

Older patients with heart and kidney conditions need to be cautious about excessive tea drinking. The diuretic action of tea can impact on their pre-existing condition and even affect the way medication may work. Furthermore the caffeine in tea can strain the heart which may be a major problem in patients with heart failure.  Similarly patients with iron-deficiency anemia need to moderate their tea intake. Since it can impede the absorption of iron from the gut, tea should not be consumed just before or after a meal.

A cup of tea twice a day may not be a problem especially if it is consumed between meals. However, exceeding two cups a day may hold some risks for the elderly. Always speak to your doctor and be honest about your tea drinking habits. If you have to cut down or stop altogether then accept it and make the prescribed dietary changes. A cup of tea may seem harmless but for some people it can be a problem beyond what is immediately obvious.


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