We are often asked about the health benefits of consuming tea. As you may know, Smith Teamaker is a tea company that puts a lot of emphasis on the flavor in the cup. However, there is no denying that regularly drinking tea can have a true and lasting impact on your wellness. It should be noted that there is a plethora of exaggerated claims and misinformation out there about what tea can do for your health. We have tried to include information here that has been researched and proven.
Of course, there is also herbal “tea” which can span a huge range of ingredients from other plants, (not Camellia sinensis): flowers, leaves, berries, barks, peels, roots, etc. While the herbal category certainly has its place in a conversation about health and wellness, the information presented here is specific to tea from the “tea plant,” Camellia sinensis.
The following research was presented at the World Tea Expo in 2015 by Lenore Arab, Ph.D., a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. A meta analysis (which pools the results of multiple scientific studies) approach was used in presenting these functional health benefits of tea.
Key health findings*
*assuming unsweetened, brewed tea is consumed as a beverage.
- Tea is essentially free of calories and is therefore desirable for weight management
- Tea is beneficial for adults and children as a low calorie source of:
- Hydration (as tea consists of mostly water)
- Fluoride (occurs naturally in tea leaves; helpful for tooth and bone health)
- Enhancing attentiveness
- Tea can be beneficial for the elderly (for cognition)
- Tea is desirable for those at risk of stroke and people with compromised endothelial (healthy blood vessels) function
Note: for physiologic effects, consumption of 3 or more cups of tea per day may be necessary.
Tea and Heart Health
Reduces Risk of Stroke:
Black tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke (around 11% - 23%).
Tea Improves Endothelial Function (healthy blood vessels):
2-3 cups of either black or green tea providing 250- 500 mg tea flavonoids improve both acute and chronic endothelial function (effects starting at approximately 1/2 cup tea).
Tea Lowers Blood Pressure:
Consumption of black tea can lower the rate of systolic (2%) and diastolic (1.5%) blood pressure in individuals with normal to high range blood pressure.
Tea and Cognition
- Tea components (theanine & caffeine) enhance cognitive performance
- Tea affects brain Alpha Waves (can help with feeling calm, relaxed)
- Cohort analyses suggests tea drinking is associated with less cognitive decline in aging
- Benefits of tea for reducing the risk of heart disease may improve brain health too
More about Theanine
Theanine is an amino acid found mostly in plant and fungal species and is substantially present in tea leaves.
- Intentionally shading tea plants from direct sunlight (like in the production of matcha green tea) increases theanine content
- Theanine is responsible for the unique savory (umami) flavor found in green tea
- Paired with caffeine, theanine may help increase focus and attention
- May effect brain function and stroke risk
Research on the Antioxidants in Tea
During the 2015 presentation, Dr. Arab spoke in depth about the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Report of 2010 and the hot topic of antioxidants in tea. Her research states that “antioxidant capacity/content or properties of food/food constituents based on their capability of scavenging free radicals in vitro does not establish a beneficial physiological effect in humans.” Put more simply, there is evidence that a compound can scavenge harmful free radicals in a petri dish, but there is no real insight into how that compound will behave in the human body. Many antioxidants in tea are not well absorbed in the human body, which suggests that we should stop talking about them in a generic sense, and instead focus on which compounds do gain access to the appropriate cells in the body to exert real biological effects. We will likely be hearing more about antioxidants and their effects or lack thereof, in the future.