Let’s Talk Tea
According to an array of blogs and articles on the web, there are millions of reasons to drink tea. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s have a look at what the evidence says.
The buzz around tea and the many health benefits associated with it has been around for a while now. Tea drinking in general is becoming increasingly popular and green is considered the champion of the teas. So, let’s have a look at these claims; what brought them about and are they true?
There are three subtypes of tea; green, black and oolong, all of which are made using the tea leaves of the Camellia Sinesis plant. The difference between them lies in the degree of fermentation. Fermentation of tea leaves is the process of drying out the leaves, which causes a group of compounds called polyphenols to oxidize.
Let’s pause for a second, what are polyphenols?
- Polyphenols are compounds found naturally occurring in plants
- They have antioxidant properties, meaning they protect against reactive oxygen species or ROS.
- ROS’ are linked to a number of chronic diseases.
So in theory, if we drink the tea, we absorb the polyphenols, we neutralise the reactive oxygen species and this may help in protecting the body from disease.
Green tea is made by steaming the tea leaves immediately after harvesting to prevent fermentation. As a result they retain almost their entire original polyphenol content (these polyphenols are called catechins), and this is why the tea stays green!
In comparison, black tea is fully fermented, causing the catechenis to be converted into theaflavins. This is how black tea gets its defining dark colour - the enzymes have been oxidised. So the total polyphenol content in both teas is similar, but they contain different types of polyphenols.
Green vs Black
There are more studies investigating green tea and the associated health benefits of consuming it, so this may be why it’s considered best; there is a lot research on it. However emerging data suggest black tea may be just as good!
One study has shown that the theaflavins in black tea and the catechins in green tea are equally effective antioxidants. Now, does this actually translate into protective effects against disease?
Recent studies have shown green tea polyphenols may be protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. And a study conducted in Japan found that Japanese adults who consumed six or more cups of green tea each day lowered their risk of diabetes by 33%.
A study done in Britain found those who drank tea, either black or green, had a greater bone mineral density than non-tea drinkers. And women consuming more than or equal to three cups of tea each day demonstrated a decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared with those who never consumed it.
It has also been suggested that both teas are anti-carcinogenic. A study conducted in Shanghai revealed an association between consuming green tea and a reduced risk of oesophageal cancer. Another showed individuals who consumed more than 10 cups of green tea per day demonstrated a reduced risk of liver, lung and colon cancer. That’s a win for green, BUT black strikes back. Another study showed the consumption of black tea reduced the risk of developing colon cancer in both men and women.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest a strong association between the consumption of both green and black tea and an array of health benefits.
Our recommendation is to drink both green and black tea, drink them on an empty stomach and drink them often!
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