Risk Factor of The Week: How Healthy is Tea Really?
The Question: How many cups of tea do you have per WEEK?
How Your Response Matches Up
RiskAverse Conditions Affected
*inconclusive, green tea promising*
Coronary Artery Disease
Diabetes Type 2
*promising, insufficient evidence*
What is so healthy about tea?
Many versions of tea offer a wide variety of healthy compounds known as polyphenols (active plant compounds), which are found only in their leaves and have potent health effects. The two main benefits that these compounds offer are boosting immune function and reducing inflammation. (1) Immune dysfunction and high levels of inflammation are hallmarks of all major chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Not all teas are made equal and they come from a variety of plant sources, therefore different types offer specific compounds. This concept means that consuming a variety of teas will help you to optimize your benefits.
Regular tea consumption and the associated health outcomes
Tea and Cancer
- Breast Cancer – High consumption of both green and black tea have been shown to reduce breast cancer incidence, and especially green tea has shown a lower incidence. (5)
- Colorectal Cancer – Green tea showed reduced incidence, whereas black tea is inconclusive. There is upwards of a 12% decreased risk per green tea drank, maxing out at 3 cups per day (6)
- Lung Cancer – Both teas show some promise in reducing lung cancer risk, with green tea performing better. However, more studies need to be conducted. (7)
There is a ton of promise for these teas in cancer prevention, but there is still work that needs to be done.
Tea and Diabetes
Consuming 3 or more cups of any type of tea per day has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (8) by alleviating insulin resistance and improving pancreatic cell function. The best effects were found in green tea, but also in black and oolong. (9) Also, the herbal tea chamomile is promising, as consumption in diabetes patients show improved A1c numbers. (10)
Tea and Cardiovascular Health
Black and green tea have been shown to reduce the risk of both heart attack and stroke, (11) due to the compounds within them which help to regulate cholesterol levels and prevent atherosclerosis. (12) These teas also have anti-obesity effects by slightly increasing fat-burning, which may also help explain some of the many positive outcomes.
Tea and Mental Health
- Chamomile tea – Chamomile tea has been shown to help reduce stress and combat symptoms of anxiety in the short term. (13) Chamomile is reported to have a sedative effect and is thus a great resource at night, since it has also been shown in groups to improve sleep quality.
- Green Tea – For those that need a caffeine boost in the morning, green tea is a great resource to help prevent jitters. It contains a compound known as L-theanine that has a sedative effect, thus helping with focus and clarity in combination with caffeine. (14)
The Bottom Line
More research still needs to be done to truly understand how tea can play a role in disease prevention, but so far the results are promising. Tea often is looped in with coffee as a morning pick up as they are the two most popular caffeinated beverages. There are more positive outcomes associated with tea than coffee, so take that as you may!
Teas that Offer Health Benefits
We have broken down the benefits of some of the most popular teas out there. Learn how to make tea a healthy strategy!
Tea is only one part of a balanced, nutritious diet. Understand what foods to pair it with throughout you day for optimal health!