Leading nutrition scientists from around the world convened on April 27 to compare the latest evidence supporting the role of tea in promoting optimal health. Speakers at the Sixth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health provided a comprehensive update of recent research on the benefits of tea consumption on human health. Here are the highlights.

higher intakes of tea consumptions may reduce the risk of some cancers

Tea contains naturally occurring compounds called flavonoids that have antioxidant properties. Tea flavonoids provide bioactive compounds that help to neutralize free radicals which may damage elements in the body, such as genetic material and lipids, and contribute to chronic disease.

There is evidence that tea flavonoids may act via antioxidant, anti-angiogenesis, and anti-inflammatory mechanisms as well modifying the profile of gut microbiota.  Suggestive evidence indicates tea consumption may reduce risk of biliary tract, breast, endometrial, liver, and oral cancer.

Over 1000 research studies on tea & health are ongoing across the globe.

Tea and Immune Function

“Tea may help support your immune system and increase your body’s resistance to illnesses,” says Tufts University’s Dayong Wu, MD, PhD.

“In the event you do become sick, tea can help your body respond to illness in a more efficient way by ridding itself of the infection and may also alleviate its severity when they happen.”

In a comprehensive review of the published data on this topic presented at the symposium, Wu concluded that green tea/catechins have been shown to help the host fight against a variety of pathogens by decreasing the pathogen’s ability to infect the host and helping the host’s immune system spring into action. Green tea/catechins have also been shown to improve autoimmune disorders by promoting self-tolerance, suppressing autoantigen-induced inflammatory attacks, and enhancing tissue repair.

Green teas such as Lung Ching contain the powerful catechin EGCG.

Tea and Cognitive Function

With no effective drug treatments for dementia, prevention is key. It is estimated that 40 to 50% of dementia could be prevented through changes in lifestyle factors. In a review of published research on tea and cognitive decline, Jonathan Hodgson, PhD, Professor at the Institute for Nutrition Research at Edith Cowan University, explains that “there is growing evidence that as little as 1 to 2 cups of tea daily could significantly reduce risk of vascular dementia and potentially Alzheimer’s disease.”

Recent high-quality data from long-term, prospective cohort studies indicate that higher intakes of tea – starting at as little as 1 cup daily and up to 5 to 6 daily – are associated with reduced risk for dementia.

Maximal benefits of tea may be obtained from as little as 2 to 4 cups per day, with little additional benefits with higher intakes. Results of these studies also suggest that the protection provided may be strongest for protection against vascular dementia, one of the most common forms of dementia.

tea and cardiac health

Based on an extensive and variety of scientific research designs, 2-cups of unsweet tea per day has the potential to mitigate cardiometabolic disease risk and progression in adults.

In an extensive review on cardiovascular health and tea, research demonstrated each cup of daily tea consumption was associated with an average 1.5% lower risk of all-cause mortality, 4% lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, 2% lower risk of CVD events, and 4% lower risk of stroke events.

“When you look at all the different biomarkers and mechanisms that tea is affecting, this bountiful beverage is one which consumers can easily add to better their diet and create a healthier and longer life for themselves,” explained George Mason University’s Taylor Wallace, PhD.

tea should be a part of your healthy lifestyle

“There is a growing body of research from around the world demonstrating that drinking tea can enhance human health in many ways,” said symposium chair, Jeffrey Blumberg, Professor Emeritus in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “True teas – which include black, green, white, oolong, and dark – can contribute significantly to the promotion of public health. Evidence presented at this symposium reveals results – ranging from suggestive to compelling – about the benefits of tea on cancer, cardiometabolic disease, cognitive performance, and immune function.”

Consumers appear to be paying attention to the health benefits found in their teacups, especially throughout the past two years of dealing with COVID-19. Over 159 million Americans are now drinking tea on any given day. 

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