We’re all looking for that magic bullet — that super food which will melt off pounds, make us look ten years younger and keep your heart beating like an atomic clock. I hate to disappoint you, but there is no such panacea.
However, thanks to over 1000 ongoing clinical studies across the globe, tea has been shown to be one of the healthiest natural ingredients you can infuse into a vigorous lifestyle.
In a study published this month in the review journal Advances in Nutrition, findings suggest that daily consumption of multiple cups of unsweetened black or green tea may lower the risk of death from heart disease.
Read the entire study online: “Dose–Response Relation between Tea Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Population-Based Studies.”
Three of the highlights from this study:
There may be an average of 4% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and 2% lower risk of all-cause mortality with each cup of tea consumed daily,
Older adults may benefit the most. For those tea drinkers who are 65 years and up, each cup of tea may lower risk of death from heart disease by 10%.
People who drink 2-3 8 oz cups of tea per day may lower their risk of death from heart disease by about 8-12%, compared to non-drinkers of tea.
Here are a few other timely findings on tea’s effect on your health:
Consumption of tea throughout the day may lead to a 4.7% increase in energy expenditure. This translates into an average of 102 extra burned calories per day. This may not seem to be a significant benefit, but you can see that the effect would be compounded to 350 calories if you substituted unsweetened tea for a daily sugary soft drink, or second glass of wine.
Remember that decaffeinated tea is not as effective because caffeine plays a role in this increased metabolic rate.
Tea, red wine, cocoa and many fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Adding flavonoids to the diet shows positive effects on chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
A study by Michigan State University researchers found that the total flavonoid intake of tea consumers was more than 20 times higher than the flavonoid consumption of non-tea drinkers. A cup of tea (white, green, oolong, or black) contains approximately 125mg of flavonoids, which is more than most non-tea drinkers consume in an entire day. An Italian study found that tea flavonoids decreased arterial stiffness, suggesting that tea consumption may have favorable effects on cardiovascular disease by reducing blood cholesterol levels and providing dilation of blood vessels to help manage blood pressure.
On the eve of an International Tea and Health Symposium sponsored by the USDA and the American Cancer Society, I sat next to Dr. Lenore Arab during dinner at the Indian Embassy in Washington. Dr. Arab is a professor at the UCLA School of Medicine.
“Every 45 seconds, someone in America suffers a stroke,” she reminded me over our meal of lamb curry.
I suddenly decided to skip dessert.
Dr. Arab has compiled results of nine international studies involving 196,000 participants in five countries which show an average 21% reduction in strokes when the participants drank three or more cups of tea each day. She spoke again about her findings at World Tea Expo the next year.
John Foxe, Professor of Neuroscience at the City University of New York uses the modern MRI machine to map tea’s effect on the complex workings of the human brain. Dr. Foxe and his team monitored brain activity after individuals drank solutions containing 250mg of L-theanine, an amino acid found almost exclusively in the tea plant.
After drinking tea, L-theanine is absorbed and increases alpha brain-wave activity. This alpha brain rhythm is known to induce a calmer, yet more alert, state of mind.
Shade-grown Gyokuro green tea from Japan contains some of the highest concentrations of L-theanine. Produced in the tea plant’s roots, this amazing amino acid slowly rises through the stem and into the leaves.
When ingested as steeped tea, this anxiolytic (anxiety reliever) is known to amplify alpha brain waves, allowing for a state of calm alertness and heightened creativity. I drink about four cups of Gyokuro everyday – either hot or cold-steeped.
Tea and Junk Food
One of the most interesting recent studies was a small investigation of 38 people, half with hypertension and half without. The subjects were given a cup of black tea before ingesting a high fat meal replicating “junk food.” The addition of tea prevented the expected increase in blood pressure that would normally occur after a high fat meal.
“Drinking black tea could lead to a reduction in strokes, heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Claudio Ferri of the University L’Aquila in Italy told me.
Well, I certainly felt better after hearing that. You wouldn’t believe how many scones with clotted cream and jam I’ve had to eat during my research trips to tearooms around the world.
And, on second thought, maybe I should not have skipped that dessert with Dr. Arab because I had already dosed myself with several cups of tea before the meal!