According to The Tea Association of the USA, the market for tea in the United States more than quadrupled during the past couple of decades. Today, Americans drink about 20 percent more of the beverage than they did back in the year 2000, and it looks like that number is continuing to increase. In 2017, Americans consumed more than 84 billion servings of tea, and the country remains the third-largest importer of tea in the world.
About 80 percent of U.S. households have tea in the kitchen, and more than half of American citizens drink tea on a daily basis. That’s great news because tea has a number of health benefits for humans. While black tea remains the most popular type, green tea is gaining in popularity, and other herbal teas like rooibos, oolong and white tea are also finding their way into our mugs and our hearts.
11 Health Benefits of Drinking Tea
Modern research shows that tea is full of antioxidants and nutrients that can help prevent disease and protect both physical and mental health.
1. It’s the Antioxidants, Baby
Tea contains unique antioxidants that help protect the body’s cells from dangerous and unstable free radicals. These antioxidants are the main source of tea’s healthy powers, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a special antioxidant found in tea.
Which tea has the most antioxidants? It’s difficult to tell as while green tea may have more EGCG, black tea has other antioxidants that also provide strong antioxidant activity. In one 2002 study, however, researchers tested green tea against black tea and found that the antioxidant capacity per serving of green tea was much higher than that of black tea.
2. Boosts Your Brainpower
The unique compounds in green tea, in particular, have been found in studies to help improve brain function. If you need to focus more at work or if you’re preparing for a big test, green tea may be the best beverage you can drink.
First, it contains caffeine, which increases your brain’s ability to transfer messages quickly and helps boost levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. The overall benefit is improved cognitive function and alertness and lower levels of fatigue.
Second, tea contains the amino acid L-theanine, which together with the caffeine, helps improve performance and attention on tasks. In a 2014 study, researchers found that green tea increased the brain’s “connectivity,” which then led to an improvement in cognitive performance, particularly in terms of working memory.
3. Helps Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
You’ve heard the old saying that an apple a day helps keep the doctor away. Now, you may want to add “and a cup of tea” to that saying as a number of studies have found a connection between drinking tea and reducing the risk of heart disease.
In a 2001 review of 17 studies, researchers looked at tea consumption in relation to stroke, heart attack and other forms of heart disease and found the incidence rate of heart attacks decreased by about 11 percent in those that drank three cups of tea per day.
In a more recent study, researchers tested the main antioxidant in green tea — EGCG — on a protein that is the main component in artery-narrowing plaques. They found that green tea protected against this protein buildup with results suggesting that EGCG may help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis (artery narrowing).
In another large study involving about 200,000 men and more than 288,000 women aged 30 to 79 years, scientists found that tea consumption was associated with a reduced risk of “ischaemic heart disease,” which is usually caused by artery narrowing.
4. May Increase the Amount of Fat You Burn
Whether green tea can help you lose weight is still uncertain, but we do have studies showing that it may help increase the amount of fat that your body burns and boost energy expenditure.
The tea, because it contains both catechins (the antioxidants) and caffeine, may help boost metabolic rate — the rate at which your body burns calories — and thereby potentially reduce fat deposits. In one study, researchers had participants ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes. Some of them took a green tea supplement before the exercise, and some took a placebo.
Results showed that average fat oxidation rates were 17 percent higher after ingestion of the green tea supplement than after ingestion of the placebo. The supplement was also found to improve insulin sensitivity.
5. Protects Your Bones
As we get older, our bones can become thinner and more fragile, setting us up for an increased risk of fractures. You may be able to keep your bones healthier, longer, by drinking more tea.
Researchers looked at several studies on tea and bone health. They found that, in general, tea and its healthy components might decrease the risk of fracture by improving bone mineral density and supporting new bone growth. In another review, they found that tea consumption helped prevent bone loss and increased bone mineral density in the spine, hip and thigh areas.
6. May Help Prevent Cancer
A healthy diet can help you reduce your risk of cancer. However, add more tea to it, and you may increase your ability to avoid this disease.
First of all, we know that antioxidants help protect cells and DNA from the damage that can lead to cancer, and tea is a rich source of antioxidants. However, we also have studies specifically on tea and cancer that have found beneficial effects.
In a 2009 study, for example, researchers compared consumption of green tea and breast cancer risk or recurrence. They found that women who drank more than three cups a day had a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence. They were unable to find an association between green tea and the initial incidence of breast cancer, however. Another study, however, did find that regular consumption of green tea could protect against breast cancer.
Other studies have found evidence that green tea may help reduce the risk of prostate, colorectal and other forms of cancer. We can’t be sure about these effects yet but, so far, the evidence looks promising.
7. Helps Keep Your Teeth Strong and Reduces Bad Breath
Want to avoid sensitive, painful teeth? Drinking more green and black tea may help with that. According to a 2008 study, drinking tea was no more harmful to tooth enamel than water and was certainly much better for teeth than sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and fruit drinks.
Other studies from Japan have found that regular intake of green tea can have positive benefits for dental health. For each cup of tea consumed each day, there was a decrease in gum tissue bleeding and other problems, like pockets in the gums. Researchers believe the catechin in green tea helps tame inflammation and reduce periodontal bacteria.
Studies have also found that green tea can help treat bad breath. It naturally reduces the concentration of volatile sulfur compounds that cause halitosis (bad breath), especially those that are associated with the worst odors. In fact, green tea was more effective at this than chewing gum or mints. Researchers concluded that green tea was effective because it both disinfected and deodorized the mouth.
8. Reduces Risk of Dementia
Rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are increasing, and we all want to avoid them. Research shows that regularly consuming tea can help protect the brain in old age.
Although scientists don’t have all the answers yet when it comes to figuring out what causes Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, they do know that oxidative stress — free radicals — along with inflammation both play a large part in damaging the brain. Because tea has such powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, scientists think that it may help protect against such brain damage.
In one 2017 study, researchers found that EGCG stopped the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, which are a definitive marker of Alzheimer’s. The year before, scientists found that intake of both green and oolong tea was associated with a lower risk of neurocognitive disorders like dementia as long as participants drank it consistently or regularly.
9. Keeps the Doctor Away
Want to avoid catching a cold or the flu this fall and winter? Drink more tea. Research shows that the nutrients in tea can help boost the immune system. The tea works by bolstering the body’s defenses against bacteria, viruses and fungi.
In one experiment, scientists found that tea drinkers had immune cells that responded five times faster to germs than did the immune cells of coffee drinkers. Five cups of tea per day had the strongest effect.
Earlier studies showed similar results. The L-theanine in tea can help increase the activity of gamma delta T cells, which are the body’s first defense against infection. L-theanine acts like a power booster for these cells, encouraging them to do their job even better than usual. This compound is found in black, green, oolong and pekoe teas.
Other studies have found that EGCG in tea can also boost the production of regulatory T cells in the immune system, helping to improve immune response.
10. Reduces Risk of Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association states that in 2015, 30.3 million Americans had diabetes. The disease remains the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. Diabetes occurs when blood glucose levels become too high in the body, either because the individual doesn’t have enough of the hormone insulin to process that glucose or the body has become insensitive to the insulin it does have.
Studies show that green tea can help reduce blood sugar levels. One study from Japan found that those consuming six or more cups of the green day daily had a 33 percent reduced risk of diabetes, compared to those drinking less than one cup per week.
In 2017, scientists reported that black tea significantly reduced rises in blood glucose levels among both healthy and prediabetic adults. In a 2014 analysis, scientists also reported that drinking more than three cups a day was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Oolong tea was found to have this same effect, with researchers suggesting that it could be used together with medications to treat type 2 diabetes.
11. May Help You Live Longer
If you’re a diehard tea drinker and you regularly consume five or more cups a day, you may find that you live longer than your nontea-drinking friends. In one study of more than 40,000 participants, researchers found that those who drank more green tea were less likely to die from all causes and from cardiovascular disease.
More specifically, the risk of death from heart disease was 31 percent lower in women and 22 percent lower in men. Death from stroke was 42 percent lower in women and 35 percent lower in men. Death from all causes was 23 percent lower in women and 12 percent lower in men.
In another study of more than 14,000 elderly people aged 65 to 84, those who drank more green tea were at a lower risk of death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease.
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