The Harvest Has Begun

It's that time of year again...

Every year, between late August and October, I head out to California for the "crush" – when the grape harvests have come in. These new grapes will soon be turned into wine. And in a few weeks or months, wineries start putting them in barrels.

The 2022 harvest is already an exciting one... This year, we're bringing in Chardonnay grapes from my world-class grape grower Jim Ricci from Ricci Vineyards. At Eifrig Cellars, we've only been able to make a Chardonnay every few years because of the fires in Napa in 2017, 2019, and 2020.

So while I'm busy working the crush, let's get right into some of the things on your minds this week...

Q: Thank you for your article on tea. My question is about decaffeinated tea. Does that still contain the benefits you mentioned or is something lost in the decaffeinated process? – R.W.

A: Caffeine is an antioxidant and does provide many of the drink's benefits. (This is true for both tea and coffee.) That's because, among other things, caffeine reduces inflammation.

However, while the decaffeination process causes some chemical changes, we've seen evidence that the main antioxidants in tea (catechins) still remain active in decaf teas. In fact, a paper from the International Journal of Chemical, Environmental and Biological Sciences measured antioxidant activity and catechin levels in various types of black and green teas, both regular and decaf.

Researchers saw that although some decaf teas had slightly reduced catechin levels, it varied by brand. More important, all the teas – regardless of caffeine content – demonstrated high antioxidant levels.

No matter your choice of tea, enjoy it for the many health-boosting benefits found in the catechins and other antioxidants. Most of our readers said they enjoy green tea with honey – we think that's a great choice for boosting your health today.

Q: Just went and received my second shingles vaccination, which is recommended by most doctors. Price has jumped to $235 per dosage. Who makes this product and when will Medicare jump on board and cover this? – G.P.

A: Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is the maker of Shingrix, currently the only shingles vaccine in the U.S. And while the shingles vaccine is becoming an essential vaccine, Medicare doesn't – as you pointed out – cover it. You either need to pay for Part D or Advantage.

According to MedPAC, a Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, 90% of all Part D vaccine claims in 2019 were for a shingles vaccine. That means lots of folks getting the vaccine are paying out of pocket.

But that could be changing...

The Protecting Seniors Through Immunization Act of 2021 would require Medicare to cover all recommended vaccines for seniors under Part B. That would include shingles, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it for anyone 50 years old and older. (The bill is currently stuck in a committee.)

President Joe Biden's budget for 2023 proposes including all adult vaccinations under Part B and giving uninsured folks free access to recommended vaccines. But we can't be sure how the budget proposal will look once it gets through Congress.

We'll wait and see what actually happens and keep readers updated.

Q: I was reading the article about the health benefits of tea and was wondering if there are any studies of health benefits regarding yerba mate. When I am in Argentina, everyone drinks this at different times during the day. – M.K.

A: Yerba mate is a popular herbal tea found in several countries in South America. But it's not popular outside the region – although you can find the leaves used to make yerba mate in different forms in health stores here in the U.S.

There isn't a lot of human-related research on the benefits (or risks) of yerba mate. What we have seen is that many of the benefits come from the caffeine in the drink, which you could similarly get from a different cup of tea or coffee.

What does concern me is that yerba mate contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ("PAHs") – known carcinogens. A 2009 review and meta-analysis found that the risk of cancers, like oral cancer and esophageal cancer, increased 16% for people who drank yerba mate. But we don't know if that increased risk is due to the PAHs in the drink or the high temperature it's usually consumed at.

While we wait for more human trials on yerba mate, we'll stick to better-studied teas.

Editor's note: Our offices will be closed on Monday, September 5 in observance of Labor Day. Look forward to your next issue of Health & Wealth Bulletin on Tuesday, September 6.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
September 2, 2022