Yerba Mate Tea & Cancer

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include “Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness” and “101 Women’s Fitness Tips.” Her articles have appeared in “Aspen Magazine,” “HerSports,” “32 Degrees,” “Pregnancy Magazine” and “Wired.” Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.Medically Reviewed byBrenda Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA

Yerba mate tea drinking is a social activity in South America however has been linked to cancer. Photo Credit Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images Every nationality has its warm drink tradition. Americans and Europeans have their coffee houses, while the British and Asian have their teas. In South America, the tea
called yerba mate plays a key role in the local culture and lifestyle. Rumors of yerba mate health benefits, such as appetite control, energy and weight loss eventually inspired American health food stores to import the product, but despite its potential benefits, some researchers link yerba mate consumption to certain types of cancers.


The evergreen mate tree, native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, grows small leaves and stems used to make yerba mate, also called ever mate tea. Yerba mate tea contains caffeine and xanthine that act as nervous system stimulants. The tea also boasts a considerable supply of antioxidants, which include vitamin B-2, vitamin B-6, vitamin C, niacin and pantothenic acid. Yerba mate’s antioxidant, energy and weight control capabilities draw people to the tea, but researchers at the Division of Cancer Fusion Mate, Winston Goodfellow, Mate tea, Cancer studies Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland report that yerba mate contains carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that makes frequent drinkers susceptible to esophagus, larynx, lung, kidney and bladder cancer. This research was published in the May 2008 edition of “Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention”.”Frequent drinkers” is the important qualifier. Occasional yerba mate drinkers may reap its benefits without the risks, but those who drink it non-stop throughout the day may eventually have health problems. In fact, most of the yerba mate related cancer studies took place in Uruguay, where the Uruguayans joke that yerba mate is not its national drink, but its “national addiction.”

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