Relax and unwind with a nice cup of tea

For health issues and the older woman it's been quite a week. 

Here in the UK many of the daily newspapers  have covered the  Earl Grey tea is good for heart disease prevention story. Also, following on from the  findings of the Women's Health Initiative,  is the potentially explosive news item about low calorie diet soft drinks and older women.

There's a lot of relevance to older women here so let's look at some of the issues in more detail.

The Earl Grey tea story has emerged after  the findings of an Italian study appeared in the Journal of Functional Foods.  The study, produced by a university in Calabria - where most of the world's Bergamot is commercially grown - claims  that extracts of Bergamot oil (found in Earl Grey tea) has the ability to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. However, and this is possibly the most controvertial bit, the researchers also suggest that Bergamot can be as effective as statins in lowering cholesterol; only without the side effects.

For those who don't know  Bergamot  (Citrus Bergamia) is a citrus fruit  and the essential oil has been used in the perfumery industry since the 18th century. Those of us who have been using aromatherapy are already aware of Bergamot's many health benefits. However, I've only  recently discovered that Bergamot supplements have already  been widely prescribed by some cardiologists and may even overtake statins in the treatment of heart disease.

It seems to me that these specific health benefits of  Bergamot are not particularly new, so I'm unsure why the headlines now. Some cynics have said that the Italian study co-incides with the launch of their Bergamot supplement. I don't know. Commercial interests aside it does seem likely though that Bergamot supplements might have a role to play in the management of cardio-vascular disease.

That said, if you're taking statins, are keen to come off (and I can understand why) it's probably not advisable to replace your prescription with Early Grey tea, as  it's not clear how much would need to be consumed in order to gain the desired therapeutic effects. If this is an issue that affects you do discuss  it with your GP. You might be surprised by the response. Here in the UK it's been widely reported that many GPs have doubts about the role of statins in the management of heart disease and I find this reassuring.

So to the diet soft drinks issue.

Let's be clear  these low-calorie drinks have no nutritional value. However, it's worse than that. Studies have shown that the artificial sweeteners used actually increases the desire for and consumption of sweetened dense carbohydrate food, which can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of developing Diabetes. So, if you care about your health  don't go there. Instead think water, tea, or make your own fresh juices or smoothies. I juice at least three times a week. Such a great energy boost and so good for health. All the family dips in and so for me it's really  worth the effort. I'll post some of my favourite juice recipes in a future blog. Watch this space!  Overall, the desired outcome is to create a kaleidoscope of anti-oxidant rich food and drink that adds life, colour  and energy to either the plate or your glass.

However, for me - as with all consumer health choices - there's a moral and ethical question here. The problem with low-cal drinks, like the ones produced by Coca-Cola, is the scandalous politics surrounding the use of water and production. And it's not just India and the developing world that's affected. The more I delve into this issue the murkier it gets. However, that's a whole new ball game! Politics is one thing but now the science is telling us that, if you're an older woman and  care about your health, then steer clear of low calorie fizzy  drinks.

However, it's a thumbs up for our warming brew of Earl Grey. So make  time today to relax and unwind with a nice cup of tea.