Tea Drinkers Shown To Be More Healthy

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

drinking tea benefits

Story at-a-glance -

  • A study found that drinking tea at least three times a week is linked with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death
  • Habitual tea drinkers in the study lived 1.26 years longer than their counterparts and were free from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease 1.41 years longer
  • Green tea, known for many health benefits, outperformed black tea in the study
  • Nonorganic teas grown in polluted environments may contain excessive fluoride and could pose the risk of skeletal fluorosis
  • Tea drinking is especially common in regions where many live to be over 100 years old, suggesting longevity benefits

Just as important for your health as what you eat is what you drink. Hopefully, everyone who reads my newsletters is drinking plenty of pure water a day and completely abstaining from soda.

Around the world, coffee and tea are, after water, the most common beverages people consume and that is a good thing. Unlike soda, which has many negative health effects, both organic coffee and tea are leading sources of antioxidant polyphenols, which are beneficial substances.

Scientific research has linked coffee to a lower risk of heart failure and stroke,1 as well as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, diabetes and some types of cancer.2 Another study showed that it may be associated with a lower risk of cognitive disorders.3 Tea is also a healthy beverage linked to impressive benefits.

Writing in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology,4 researchers found that drinking tea at least three times a week is linked with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death.

"The favorable health effects are the most robust for green tea and for long-term habitual tea drinkers," added Xinyan Wang of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China, the study's first author, about the research.5

More Reasons to Drink a Much-Loved Beverage

Cardiovascular disease is the world's leading cause of premature death, write the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology researchers, and tea is one of the world's most widely consumed beverages, especially in Asia. The aim of the study was to examine the association between atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) and all-cause mortality and tea drinking.6

Results from observing 100,902 participants in the study over a period of years found that habitual tea drinkers lived 1.26 years longer than their counterparts. They were also free from ASCVD for 1.41 years longer than their non-tea drinking counterparts.7

To ensure scientific validity, 1,896 study participants were excluded because they had a history of ASCVD or cancer and 2,465 were excluded because information about their tea drinking habits was lacking. While there have been medical studies about tea drinking and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD), this study added new information to what is known, say the scientists:8

"Several previous studies assessed the association between tea consumption and CVD and all-cause mortality, but the results remained inconsistent. Studies among Welsh men and US adults did not observe significant inverse associations of tea consumption (mainly as black tea) with CHD or CVD risks.

In the Japanese population, green tea consumption could reduce the risk of CVD while there was no unanimous conclusion on all-cause mortality. Previous Chinese studies found inverse association between tea consumption and CHD incidence but the reports for stroke and cause-specific mortality were only based on men.

According to our study, habitual tea consumption is associated with a lower risk of ASCVD incidence (including CHD and stroke), ASCVD mortality (especially for stroke), and all-cause mortality and these inverse associations were persistent across subgroups.

… The observed inverse associations were strengthened among participants who stuck to their habit all along. Similarly, previous studies in the USA and in China also reported more evident health effects with longer years of tea consumption."

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Green Tea Led Benefits in the Study

In the study, not all participants drank the same kind of tea. Forty-nine percent of habitual tea drinkers who participated consumed green tea, while only 8% drank black tea and the remainder, 43%, drank scented or other types of tea.9 Green tea, it turns out, was the most healthful of the tested teas.

"Habitual green tea consumption was inversely associated with the risks of all study outcomes except CHD mortality, as compared with those never or non-habitual tea drinkers. No significant association was observed for black tea …

Tea, especially green tea, is a rich source of flavonoids including mainly epicatechin, catechin, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), etc. Mechanism studies have revealed that these bioactive compounds could attenuate oxidative stress, relieve inflammation, enhance endothelial and cardiomyocyte function …

Tea polyphenols might be oxidized into pigments and inactivated during fermentation, which might be partly the reason why black tea was prone to be less associated with health benefits in many studies."10

There are other reasons black tea may not be as beneficial, speculates SciTech Today:11

"Black tea is fully fermented and during this process polyphenols are oxidized into pigments and may lose their antioxidant effects. Second, black tea is often served with milk, which previous research has shown may counteract the favorable health effects of tea on vascular function."

Black tea also has almost five times the caffeine content of green tea, which is important for those seeking to reduce their caffeine consumption to realize (although in some cases, caffeine may be beneficial). It is also known to stain the teeth.12

Previous Tea Studies Have Shown Other Benefits

Tea, particularly green tea, has been linked with other health benefits. In one study of prostate cancer (PCa), the second most frequently diagnosed cancer, the journal Medicine, Baltimore, wrote that "there was a trend of reduced incidence of PCa with each 1 cup/day increase of green tea."13

"Our dose-response meta-analysis further demonstrated that higher green tea consumption was linearly associated with a reduced risk of PCa with more than 7 cups/day. In addition, green tea catechins were effective for preventing PCa.

In conclusion, our dose-response meta-analysis evaluated the association of green tea intake with PCa risk systematically and quantitatively. And this is the first meta-analysis of green tea catechins consumption and PCa incidence.

Our novel data demonstrated that higher green tea consumption was linearly reduced PCa risk with more than 7cups/day and green tea catechins were effective for preventing PCa."

A 2017 study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer14 found a significant inverse dose-response association between green tea drinking and liver cancer risk. That inverse association increased with years of green tea drinking and when four cups a day of green tea were consumed.

Studies have also associated green tea with reduced risk of depression,15 obesity,16 stroke17 and bone thinning,18 and improvements to vision.19 A central reason for green tea's benefits is its catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate, which helps your arteries relax and improves blood fIow.20

To receive more benefits from the catechins found in teas, which are natural phenol and antioxidant compounds, you can add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, which will help absorption.21 However, beware of nonorganic teas that are grown in polluted environments — they can contain heavy metals or fluoride, which could lead to skeletal fluorosis. Instant tea may also contain excessive fluoride.22

Teas May Also Increase Longevity

An epidemiological project called Blue Zones seeks to document and analyze the lifestyle particulars found in communities that have the highest number of people who live past 100. Here is what National Public Radio reported:23

"The people in these five regions in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the U.S. that live to be 100 have a lot going for them. Genes probably play a small role, but these folks also have strong social ties, tightly-knit families and lots of opportunity to exercise.

As we were parsing through the dietary secrets of the Blue Zones, as described in author Dan Buettner's latest book, The Blues Zones Solution, we were struck by how essential tea drinking is in these regions.

In fact, Buettner's Blue Zones Beverage Rule — a kind of guideline distilled from his 15 or so years of studying these places — is: 'Drink coffee for breakfast, tea in the afternoon, wine at 5 p.m.'

In Okinawa, Japan, for example, Buettner watched one 104-year-old 'make jasmine tea, squatting in the corner and pouring hot water over tea leaves as the room filled with a delicate, floral aroma.' Indeed, Okinawans call their tea shan-pien, or 'tea with a bit of scent,' which combines green tea leaves, jasmine flowers and a bit of turmeric."

More Teas With Health Benefits

Black and green tea are probably the teas that are studied the most frequently, but oolong, dark and white teas also have benefits. Like black and green tea, they come from the plant known as Camellia sinensis, although hibiscus tea, described below, does not.

Oolong tea — This tea is great for weight management and heart health: The polyphenols in oolong tea help control fat metabolism in your body by activating certain enzymes. A 2001 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that participants who ingested either full-strength or diluted oolong tea burned 2.9% to 3.4% more total calories daily.24

Hibiscus tea — High in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants, tea made from hibiscus sabdariffa (also called Sudan tea, sour tea and roselle) has benefits for overall health. Studies suggest it may improve blood pressure, help prevent metabolic syndrome, protect your liver and even provide anticancer effects.25

In a study in the journal ARYA Atherosclerosis, consumption of tea made from hibiscus sabdariffa led to a decrease in systolic blood pressure in healthy men compared with the placebo.26

Matcha — Matcha is a type of green tea, but unlike regular green tea, in which you steep and discard the leaves, when you drink matcha you consume the entire leaves, which are ground micron fine. Studies indicate that 1 cup of matcha may provide the antioxidant equivalent of 3 cups of regular green tea and as much as 137 times more antioxidants than low-grade green tea.27

Darjeeling — Made from the Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis, darjeeling tea contains two complex antioxidants called theaflavins and thearubigins that help neutralize harmful free radicals, and potentially reduce free radical damage that can target cell membranes and DNA, and raise your risk for chronic illness.

There are more coffee drinkers than tea drinkers in the U.S., yet the varieties and benefits of tea are worth exploring and making part of your diet. People who drink tea are enjoying many health benefits as they also partake of an enjoyable and comforting beverage.