Tea lovers rejoice: There may be no healthier beverage in the world than your daily brew. A hot cup of tea helps fight off cancer, boosts the immune system, beats Alzheimer’s and combats heart disease and diabetes, say nutritionists.
In fact, tea is the only food with the amino acid L-theanine that’s known to improve mental focus and sleep quality. Tea superpowers also stem from flavonoids. They are naturally occurring compounds that act like antioxidants, destroying illness-triggering “free radicals.”
Two to four cups a day provide the best results, with few additional benefits from higher intakes. The findings were presented during the Sixth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health.
“There is a growing body of research from around the world demonstrating that drinking tea can enhance human health in many ways,” says symposium chair Jeffrey Blumberg, from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, in a statement. “True teas – which include black, green, white, oolong, and dark – can contribute significantly to the promotion of public health. Evidence presented at this symposium reveals results – ranging from suggestive to compelling – about the benefits of tea on cancer, cardiometabolic disease, cognitive performance and immune function.”
Green tea, for instance, contains natural antioxidants known as catechins that prevent cell damage, strengthen the immune system and enhance tissue repair.
“Tea may help support your immune system and increase your body’s resistance to illnesses,” adds Dr. Dayong Wu, also from Tufts. “In the event you do become sick, tea can help your body respond to illness in a more efficient way by ridding itself of the infection and may also alleviate its severity when they happen.”
Professor Louise Dye, from the University of Leeds in England, says trials have found tea is also good for cognitive function, owing to a unique combination of caffeine and L-theanine.
“There is strong evidence that tea and its constituents seem to be beneficial under conditions of stress. The most profound cognitive domain that tea seems to act upon is attention and alertness,” she notes. “With these effects on attention, tea is an optimal beverage of choice during a time of elevated stress and burnout worldwide.”
It is estimated up to half of dementia cases could be prevented through changes in lifestyle, such as drinking more tea. “There’s growing evidence as little as one-to-two cups daily could significantly reduce risk of vascular dementia and potentially Alzheimer’s disease,” says Professor Jonathan Hodgson, of Edith Cowan University in Perth.
Data also suggests higher intakes protect against cancers of the breast, womb, gallbladder, liver and mouth by dampening inflammation and boosting gut bacteria. “While more research needs to be done to determine the exact dosage, the conclusion we can share is higher intakes of tea consumptions may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer,” says Dr. Raul Zamora-Ros, of the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona.
Two cups of unsweetened tea a day has also been linked with staving off diabetes and heart disease, the world’s number one killer.
One extensive review demonstrated that each cup reduced the risk of a stroke or death from cardiovascular disease by four percent. It also lowers risk of heart attacks by two percent and all-cause mortality by 1.5 percent.
The virtual meeting, organized by the Tea Council of the USA, was told clearer recommendations are needed to support the growing evidence.
“There may be other herbals and botanical products that can deliver health benefits but none of them are as systematically studied as Camellia sinensis – true tea,” says Professor Mario Feruzzi, of the University of Arkansas University. “With true teas – white, green, black and oolong – you’re dealing with thousands of years of traditional use, 60-70 years of systematic study which, in the last 15-20 years, has ramped up to the point where we have very definitive data.”
Tea is by far the most popular drink consumed in Britain with over 100 million cups down every day – around 36 billion a year.
Report by Mark Waghorn, South West News Service