For thousands of years, tea has been known as a source of healing in many cultures, whether an herbal remedy or the brew of tea leaves. Technically speaking, “tea” comes from a tea leaf when discussed among scientists, being either black, green, white, or oolong. Though green tea has received most of the healthy press over the past few decades, the more mature leaf that provides black tea also carries a wealth of antioxidants. Green tea additionally contains catechins, the antioxidant polyphenol which has been tied to reducing cancer risks and increasing heart health, according to ongoing medical research. Because of green tea’s high concentration of catechins, it has received most of the attention for promoting good health.
However, the research is still in progress. Though some results from such studies have shown favorable evidence that green tea can improve your health, is it still under questioning from the medical and scientific communities. Tea (with caffeine) has also been reported to help metabolic function, elevating endurance when exercising, and breaking down fats more effectively. This has also yet to be proven, and is still up for consideration.
Tea Leaf Basics
What are the different kinds of teas and what benefits may they have?
The four tea groups (black – including red tea, green, white and oolong) are each part of the Camellia sinensis plant family. A different type of tea is established based on the maturity of the plant and the way the leaves are prepared. The plant’s age impacts its flavor and the nutrients it contains. Black tea, the most common, is created from leaves that have been dried and oxidized, or brought in contact with open air. When making green tea, leaves have dried but not been exposed to air. White tea is not wilted or oxidized whatsoever, and oolong leaves are dried and partially oxidized.
Each of the four types is rich in polyphenols, which has made tea such an interest to scientists over the years. Most studies have centered around black and green teas, the most consumed teas in the world. In addition to green tea carrying more polyphenols than black, it also contains a particularly high quantity of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has received the most emphasis for its healing powers. At least it has been the focus of numerous studies, articles, and showcased on food labels for the past several years.
Health Conditions and Tea
Will drinking tea really reduce the possibility of getting cancer or another serious medical condition? It doesn’t look 100 percent possible, but according to a review of 51 studies on green tea and cancer prevention, drinking three to five cups each day may reduce your risk of colorectal, lung, ovarian, and prostate cancers. However, the same prescription will not hold true for any other types of cancer – but at least there are four out of the way.
Black tea has received a review of “possibly effective” for lowering the risk of ovarian cancer by the National Institutes of Health. NIH also reported that black tea is “possibly ineffective” for lowering any risks of colorectal or stomach cancers. For brain function, however, the NIH has made a connection to reducing the potential of developing Parkinson’s disease by drinking one to four cups of green or black tea daily.
As for the heart health benefits of tea, research has pointed to potential prevention of cardiovascular disease and reduction of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. A study in Japan discovered adults who consumed five or more cups of green tea each day lowered their risk of heart attack or stroke-related fatalities by 26 percent, compared to those who drank less. This study also showed a greater effect of health benefits in women. Another study from the Netherlands showed a reduction of 70 percent for death by heart attack or stroke in those who drank a minimum of 2-3 cups of black tea every day, compared to people who didn’t drink tea.
Some studies have been performed on humans, though many others have been restricted to animal and lab testing. Though there is promising evidence in this research, it is of course, subjective and also specific in each individual. If a person continues to eat poorly, consuming high-cholesterol and high-fat foods, and expects that adding tea will reverse the effect, they should clearly think otherwise. Tea, in combination with a healthy diet will bring the most benefits, if it can actually yield such powerful ones like reducing serious health risks.
According to the medical community, tea may not be proven as an absolute cancer-fighting remedy, but it is surely a healthy drink to regularly consume. There are plenty of decaffeinated teas to offer a balance for those who are trying to restrict their intake of stimulants, and they offer exactly the same potential of health benefits as a caffeinated brew. Lona Sandon, RD of the UT Southwestern Medical Center and American Dietetic Association says, “Tea is probably better than a lot of other beverages… Just make sure you’ve got other healthy lifestyle habits—you can’t count on tea alone to prevent cancer.”
More Reasons to Drink More Tea
So far, certain cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiovascular conditions can potentially be reduced by consuming tea and making other healthy decisions. Anything else? Surely. Firstly, tea has less caffeine than coffee (or none at all if you choose decaf), which helps regulate your mood and stress levels. Unless you drink mate, which is not technically tea as it is an herb, tea will keep you more balanced and less jittery than coffee in moderation.
More studies have been done on the effects of tea and various systems – one of which showed that tea consumption correlated with overall stronger bones in participants who had been drinking tea for ten years, when compared to non-tea drinkers. Immune system improvements were also shown in a study of people who drank five cups of tea each day for four weeks, in contrast to those who drank five cups of coffee daily.
For anyone watching caloric intake, tea has none. Until you add sweetener or milk, tea has no calories and is an excellent, light alternative to drinking other flavored beverages. Additionally, tea in considered a viable contribution to your daily fluids despite caffeine content. Still vary your intake with water, but tea has been found to provide adequate hydration. There are also tannins in tea that help reduce plaque and keep your teeth clean, when unsweetened. In combination with regular brushing and flossing, tea can improve your dental health, as well.
1. Health.com. The Truth About the Health Benefits of Tea.
2. iVillage.com. Top 10 Health Benefits of Drinking Tea.