Pinkies Up! There Could Be Some Real Health Benefits To Drinking Tea

Tea gets short shrift as coffee’s milder little sister. But these leaves may have a lot more to offer drinkers than just their subtle taste.

Large, observational studies have found lifelong tea drinkers are less likely to face early cognitive decline and get certain types of cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

We should also note that by “tea,” we mean the leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant that are plucked and processed in different ways to make black, green, white, oolong and pu’er teas — not herbal infusions like peppermint, hibiscus and chamomile teas.

Researchers suspect that active ingredients in tea, like flavonoids, caffeine, fluoride and theanine, may have positive effects on our body’s functioning. However, observational studies can show an association between tea and a certain health benefit, but they don’t actually prove that drinking tea actually causes this outcome.

For the strongest evidence of tea’s benefits, scientists would need to do a randomized, controlled trial in which people would be assigned to either drink or avoid tea for 20 to 30 years, explains tea researcher Lenore Arab, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine. Or scientists would have to ask tea lovers to give up tea, or vice versa — long-term, infeasible proposals.

The only randomized, controlled trials testing tea’s active ingredients on health outcomes are either animal studies or very short-term experiments in human beings. For instance, Arab has reviewed several animal experiments that found tea or tea’s active ingredients helped mitigate brain damage from stroke in rodents. And short-term RCTs in humans have found tea can help lower blood pressure and improve endothelial function (which is —> Read More