Drink three cups of tea daily for maximum wellness benefits, says new study
New research review reveals tea wellness benefits across the age divide
A new review, published in Nutrition and Food Technology and commissioned by the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP), has discovered that drinking tea offers wellness benefits from childhood to old age.
Using the World Health Organisation definition of health and wellness as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”, the authors reviewed findings from more than 60 different studies to examine how drinking tea contributes to our lives.
The findings reveal strong evidence that regular tea drinking improves cardiovascular health, hydration, cognitive function, and metabolic health, with growing data showing an important role for tea in supporting mental wellbeing, weight management, gut health and bone density.
Lead author, Dr Pamela Mason, said: “Tea has been consumed for centuries for its relaxing and social benefits. However, research increasingly shows that drinking from childhood to older age offers a range of health and well-being benefits. Studies show that benefits for health and wellbeing are seen at daily intakes of 2-4 cups – and it doesn’t matter whether you choose regular black tea, or green tea.
“Whilst the polyphenol compounds in tea have attracted the most attention for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, other compounds in tea are also important. These include L-theanine and caffeine which have been proven to influence the brain and cognitive function by improving alertness and helping us to maintain concentration levels. L-theanine has also been studied for its relaxation properties – something which people value when enjoying a tea break”.
Tea keeps us calm
From the tea gardens of ancient China and Japan, where tea was drunk before meditation practice, to the busy lifestyles of modern Brits, tea is widely seen as a calming drink. Yet, as the new TAP review shows, there is plenty of science to back this up.
A clinical trial in 75 healthy men found that drinking tea daily for 6 weeks reduced cortisol levels in response when a stressful computer task was performed. Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone and can be detected in saliva and blood. Men in the group consuming tea also noted an increase in feelings of relaxation during the post-task recovery period.
The key component responsible for this calming effect is L-theanine – an amino acid unique to tea. In fact, an analysis which combined 49 intervention trials found that L-theanine, caffeine and EGCG (a polyphenol in green tea) can all impact significantly on attention levels, memory, relaxation and suppression of distraction. The effects of tea components have also been confirmed using functional MRI scanning – this shows that certain areas of the brain ‘light up’ in response to L-theanine and caffeine.
Proven heart health effects
Several major studies now confirm that drinking tea lowers the risk of heart and vascular disease. As reported in the new review, clinical studies reveal that tea reduces blood pressure and ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. For example, the UK Bio bank Study found recently that higher tea consumption was associated with lower total and LDL cholesterol, and higher ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Co-author of the TAP review, Dr Tim Bond, comments: “We know that tea drinking is a marker of reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease – and dying from a stroke or heart attack – but we also understand why. Clinical and laboratory studies show that tea polyphenols limit cholesterol absorption in the gut, and target receptors which regulate blood cholesterol levels. Tea polyphenols also relax blood vessel smooth muscle and boost nitric oxide levels – both of which help to lower blood pressure. Tea is also a potent antioxidant and can lower inflammation in the body”.
Benefits across the age divide
The TAP review found that different benefits were important at different life stages – for example tea is a healthier swap for children when parents are trying to cut their sugary drink consumption, while older adults who drink three cups of tea daily reduced their risk of heart disease by nearly a third, and lowered their risk of stroke by a fifth.
Other benefits seen in adults include:
Drinking green tea as part of a weight loss diet results in an extra 3.3 kg (1/2 stone) lost over 12 weeks;
Four cups of tea daily are linked with a 10% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus;
Regular tea drinking is associated with a 38% lower risk of osteoporosis – a serious disease which causes bone fractures;
Tea could help immunity as it can neutralise pathogens found in the upper respiratory tract.
Dr Pam Mason concludes: “Including three cups of black tea daily as part of a healthy lifestyle could help to preserve physical and mental health from pregnancy and childhood, through the teens and adulthood into old age. We have seen a renaissance in home tea drinking during the lockdowns which has helped a new generation discover the comfort and taste of a good cuppa. I hope this continues as we move back towards normality, so many more people across the age divide can benefit from the goodness of tea”.