By AMANDA STRAINER
Published: December 7, 2008
It starts so innocently, just a few times a week after work. You tell yourself you need it to unwind. But then you begin to crave it in the morning. You carry it with you for a midday pick-me-up, and it's the first thing you think of when you get home. It's tea--and it may be killing you.
Once touted as the healthy alternative to coffee, a new epidemic is sweeping the nation, and possibly the world: Teamania. Never heard of it? That may be due to the efforts of wealthy tea barons, who have invested millions into stalling research and saturating the media with pro-tea rhetoric.
"We've made some efforts at education," says Donald Leaves, who heads the Teamania Research Project (TRP) at Ohio State University, "but we just can't match the kind of clout that Big Tea holds with the media. We've seen our funding cut at every level."
What you don't know about Teamania may kill you, Leaves warns. His team has unearthed some startling evidence suggesting a link between heavy tea consumption and addiction symptoms on par with cocaine and heroin. Mice who were fed increasingly stronger doses of tea began to neglect hygiene and exercise, instead spending hours in an apparant "tea haze." When taken off the tea, these subjects either became highly aggressive or severely depressed.
"We've had several cases where one mouse would brutally attack another that was drinking out of its tea bottle," says Leaves. "Several of the mice who have been taken off tea have committed suicide. It's been quite gruesome, and the implications for humans are alarming."
Leaves' team isn't alone in its findings. Grad student Tracy Spout conducted her own research, interviewing 100 people between the ages of 18 and 35. Those who consumed 6-8 cups of tea a day showed increased irritability, tremors, depression, desire to practice yoga, and an annoyingly smug tendency to spout facts about antioxidents and free radicals.
With all of this evidence, why hasn't there been an uproar? Money talks, says Spout. "I've approached a number of journals with my findings," she says, "and all have been too scared to go up against Big Tea."
A local news station, KFAT, was one of the few to cover the TRP's findings, but later retracted its story. Although no one at the station was available for comment, Leaves speculates that reporters caved to pressure from Big Tea.
Says Leaves, "It's a terrifying world we live in when some people will put profit before the well-being of millions." He plans to continue his research as long as possible, although he knows his career may very well suffer. "Sometimes it's a matter of doing what's right, and that's to make sure as many people as possible learn about the dangers of tea."
Contact Strainer at AStrainer@thisjournal.com
**This article is probably a bunch of hooey, seeing as I made it all up. Any resemblance to real persons, living or deceased, is a big fat coincidence. I'm sure Ohio State is a fine school, but to my knowledge there is no Teamania Research Project in the works. (...Yet?)