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Ask Dr. Mike: Black vs. Green Tea & Is Alcohol Good for You?

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

Is alcohol good for us or not? If so, which kind?

Alcohol itself (ethanol) is good for you and there's an appropriate dose that you can benefit from. The standard drink serving for men is two, for women it's one (12 oz. beer, 05 oz. glass of wine, and a 1.5 oz shot). Once you drink beyond this, you will more than likely not experience any benefits.

I found a blog of yours titled, "Black is the New Green Tea." Do you think black is better than green tea?

Dr. Mike wants you to understand that he's not saying that black tea is better than green tea, but that black tea is extremely beneficial to your health. Black tea has a group of chemicals known as theaflavins, that ease inflammation and have cardiovascular benefits. Depending on your personal preference, both green and black tea are great for your health.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.877.711.5211) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents: Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: March 3, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

It's time for you to be a part of the show. Email or call with questions for Dr. Mike now. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call: 877-711-5211. What are you waiting for? The doctor is in.

Once again, that's 877-711-5211. Maybe you have a question that you always wanted answered. If you haven't learned about me, I try just to be straightforward with it, you know? I don't beat around the bush with my answers. If I don't know, I'll tell you and we'll find the answer together. Maybe you have a question that might stump me. Hmm? 877-711-5211 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Alright. So, let's go on to a question about alcohol use.
"Is alcohol good for us or not? And, if so, which kind?"

I think, yes. It is good for us. It is. Alcohol itself—ethanol. ETOH. That's the chemical abbreviation. It's good for you. Yes. But, of course, there's a level of diminished returns. Alright? How often have I said, whether it's a drug, whether it's alcohol, whether it's supplements, everything has an appropriate dose and if you stay within that appropriate dose range, you get great benefit with very, very little side effect but then the minute you go out of that dose range, especially on the higher side, benefits drop, side effects go up and we all know, I think most adults in this country understand the concept of diminished returns when it comes to ethanol (alcohol).

So, what is the appropriate amount then? I've got tell you, I don't think anybody's really worked this out. The standard doctor answer that I'm supposed to give you—so, sometimes I put on my official doctor hat—"Well, a man can have 2 drinks a day and a woman 1." That's the standard answer.

Now, what kind of drinks? Well, a 12-ounce beer. Maybe I should say it this way: an average 12-ounce beer because beers can be brewed different ways and some of them can be really strong. Some of them are a little bit weak, but just a standard 12-ounce beer, a standard shot. What is it an ounce or so? I'm not sure what a standard shot is, but a standard shot glass of a spirit, whether it's a clear spirit or the darker ones. Whatever. Hard liquor. And, a 5-ounce glass of wine. They all, pretty much, assuming standard brewing techniques, they all pretty much have the same alcohol content. So, a man can have a couple beers, a couple shots, a couple glasses of wine and a woman can have 1. I know. It's not fair. That's the standard answer.

I think you have to take into account, when you're talking about dose. That's what we're talking about here just like with supplement and drugs, you've got to look at the size of the person, their metabolism. I mean, all that plays a role, so they're might be some people out there, some women, that can do 2 or 3 drinks and have that benefit and maybe some men 4 or 5. I don't know. Some not. Maybe there are some women that have a half a glass of wine and that's all they need. That's the benefit for them. Above that, they're losing the benefit and just getting drunk. So, yes. Alcohol is good. Two servings of that for men, 1 serving for women a day and that's the 12-ounce beer, the shot or the 5-ounce glass of wine. It's all the same amount of alcohol.

Be careful with the beer—especially the beer. Because some beers are brewed in a way where they concentrate the alcohol. I mean, there are some beers out there that are upwards of 10-12% alcohol. That's way above the normal standard beer which I think is around like 4% or something. Four percent alcohol which would be the same for the shot and the same for the glass of wine.

Now, with all that said, I enjoy my alcohol on occasion and I like red wine. I'm lucky. I really am lucky because red wine is really good for you, too. So, I'm not only getting the benefit of the ethanol, I'm also getting the benefit of the red, deep, dark grapes which have a lot of the stilbene compounds that I've talked about before, like resveratrol. So, out of all of that, your best bet is a 5-ounce glass of red wine or 2 or 3. No. No. That's enough. One or two.

So, there's your answer. What are the benefits of ethanol? Well, there's been, let's see, some studies showing—I'm just talking about the ethanol now, the alcohol part—benefits to the cardiovascular system. Benefit to cognition, believe it or not. At that 1 or 2 drinks a day, it actually improves cognition, mood, sleep, digestion, all that. It has been shown to be beneficial from ethanol. Nothing conclusive, but those are the benefits that we know of pretty much at this point. Just don't do too much because then you lose the benefits.

The red wine, though, is different, right? The antioxidants in red wine like resveratrol and many more benefits, sugar metabolism, maybe even weight, resting metabolic rate—how many calories you burn at rest—seem to go up with these red wine antioxidant, anti-aging genes. There are genes in your body called sirtuins that are activated by the red wine antioxidants called stilbenes like resveratrol. So, red wine takes it to a whole other level than just the ethanol. So, that is probably the best bet: red wine. Okay. Good. Watch the sugary wines. I'm not talking about the ports and stuff like that. I'm just talking about a standard dry, young, red wine. Okay? Alright.

Moving on. Next question. "I found a blog of yours titled Black is the New Green Tea." I do remember that. "Do you really think black is better than green?"

Well, no, but that wasn't what the blog was about. The blog's not about whether black is better than green, the blog is more about black should up there, should be on the forefront of our minds, just like green tea. That's all. That's what I meant.

Gosh, that was many years ago I wrote this blog. I don't remember the specifics of it, but I remember thinking that maybe black tea was going to become more popular in this country, but it really hasn't. But, black tea in other places has always been more popular. But, yes, black tea has a group of chemicals called theoflavins and there are two broad types of theoflavins and it's real simple.

There's theoflavin 1 and there's theoflavin 2 and most of the research, if I remember—don't quote me on this—but if I remember right, it's the theoflavin 1s that are really good at easing inflammation, having some cardiovascular benefit, specifically, and maybe with, good cholesterol, raising HDL.

So, no, I don't think black is better than green. I don't think green is better than black. I think they're both awesome. By the way, whether it's green, black or white tea, it all comes from the same plant. It's just white tea is the young plant, green tea is the ripe plant and then black tea is when it is picked and it is laid out and exposed to air and it becomes oxidized. I know a lot of times when we think of oxidation, we think of bad things. That's not always the case and when you go from the young tea leaf to the ripe tea leaf to the oxidized tea leaf, that's white, green black, the composition of antioxidants change. White tea probably has the most different types of antioxidants, but at the lowest levels. So, white tea is going to give you a nice array of antioxidants, but at lower levels and it's a little bit sweeter. Green tea, ultimately, is the EGCG, that's the very potent antioxidant and it's just so good for your body in so many ways. EGCG is really concentrated in the ripe green tea leaf.

You'll still get some of those other antioxidants that you get in the white tea, but it's just concentrated now in the EGCG. Then, when you oxidize it, it's the theoflavins that come up. So, that's white, green, black. It's all the same plant, just different ways to handle it and process it. No. I don't think it's any better. Personally, I like black tea better. I'm not a fan of green tea. I'm sorry. I had green tea ice cream. Does that count? That was good. But, I prefer the deeper flavor of black tea. I do enjoy a glass or two. Not every day. Maybe a glass or two a week. I should try to increase that.

Well, this is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.