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ICMR warns against sipping tea or coffee just before or after meals. Here is why

First Published: 14th May, 2024 18:33 IST

While the ICMR has not asked people to completely avoid tea or coffee, but it has cautioned consumers to beware of the caffeine content in these beverages.

Be careful, if you have the habit of sipping a cup of coffee and tea before or after having a meal. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has cautioned the people who are habituated in doing this.

Recently the ICMR has released a set of 17 dietary guidelines for Indians in a bid to encourage a balanced and diverse diet coupled with healthy living.

In one of the guidelines, the medical panel with its research wing the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) explained that the consumption of tea and coffee should be done in moderation.

While the ICMR has not asked people to completely avoid tea or coffee, but it has cautioned consumers to beware of the caffeine content in these beverages.

A cup (150ml) of brewed coffee contains 80–120mg of caffeine, instant coffee contains 50–65mg and tea contains 30–65mg of caffeine.

“Moderation in tea and coffee consumption is advised so that caffeine intake does not exceed the tolerable limits (300mg/day),” the ICMR wrote, stating the daily limit of caffeine a person can have.
However, they asked people to avoid having coffee and tea at least one hour before and after a meal.

This is because these beverages contain a compound called tannin. When it is consumed, tannins can interfere with iron absorption in the body.

What does this mean?

This means that tannin can reduce the amount of iron your body absorbs from food.

Tannin can bind to iron in the digestive tract, forming a complex that is harder for the body to absorb. This reduces the amount of iron that enters your bloodstream from the food you eat.

This leads to a decrease in iron availability in your body. Iron is essential for making haemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

It is also important for energy production and overall cell function. Lower iron levels can lead to iron deficiency and conditions like anaemia.

Common symptoms of iron deficiency in the body are feeling tired very often or lack of energy, breathlessness, frequent headaches especially with activity, unexplained weakness, rapid heartbeat, pale skin, craving for ice, brittle nails or hair loss.

Besides this, the ICMR researchers stated that having tea without milk can have added health benefits like promoting blood circulation and can help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) and stomach cancer.

On the other hand, consuming high levels of coffee is linked to high blood pressure and abnormalities in heartbeat.

Other dietary guidelines by the medical panel including consuming less oil, having a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and seafood. They urged people not to consume protein supplements, and have less oil in their food by limiting sugar and salt.

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