Preliminary research from Japan suggests that the best way to counter the effects of a fatty meal may be to take a cup of tea while eating.
It is the antioxidant properties of tea which are of benefit. Eating a meal which is high in fat increases the blood lipid levels, in turn producing free radicals which are known to cause blood vessels to stiffen and shrink. Antioxidants attack free radicals in the blood, keeping the blood vessels free.
Speaking at a nutrition conference organised by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and other medical groups, Yoshikazu Takanami, a researcher at Tokyo Medical University in Japan, said his team had looked at the effects of two high-fat meals in 10 healthy volunteers aged 21 to 38. Each meal contained 79 per cent, but during one of them, the volunteers were asked to drink black tea rather than water.
Takanami's team discovered that blood flow in the forearm was the strongest after drinking the tea, suggesting that the antioxidants in the tea helped keep the blood flowing. Tests confirmed that the antioxidant levels were highest after the meal with tea.
Meanwhile, a tea producer has come under fire in the UK for advertising the supposed health properties of the drink. A magazine advert for Dilmah tea said that each mug contained "a cocktail of vitamins, folic acid and zinc", as well as "essential nutrients" such as potassium, riboflavin and vitamin B6.
But Dilmah's producer, the Sri Lankan firm Ceylon Tea Services, fell foul of the British Advertising Standards Authority because most of these nutrients are in fact found in the milk which is commonly added to the tea, not in the tea itself.
A rival tea firm complained to the ASA, which said that as the health benefits of tea were still not confirmed, the advert could be described as "misleading".
Ceylon Tea Services refuted the claims that it had over-exaggerated the health benefits of tea, saying that it had simply used information provided by the UK's Tea Council, the industry's promotional body.
The Council said its information had been misrepresented and that it was always extremely cautious about exaggerating the as-yet unproven antioxidant properties of tea.