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To Tea Or Not To Tea


Drinking a few cups of tea a day maybe good for your health. However, do all the recent claims about tea ring true?

The difference between the three main varieties of tea (green, black, and oolong tea) is the process used to make them. Black tea is exposed to air, or fermented, which darkens the leaves and gives them flavor. Green tea is made by heating or quickly steaming the leaves. Oolong tea leaves are partially fermented.

There’s no hard evidence that drinking tea can prevent cancer in people in general; many factors affect cancer risk. However, several studies have linked drinking tea to a lower risk of cancer for some people. More research is needed to define those groups. 

Green or Black Tea - which is better?

Until recently, tea research has focused on green tea. Green tea is loaded with the compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), a powerful . Since the fermentation process used to make black tea converts EGCg into other compounds, researchers assumed black tea had less health benefits than green tea. However, recent studies indicate the compounds contained in black tea - do more than contribute to its dark color and distinctive flavor. They also provide health benefits originally attributed solely to green tea. 


Some studies show that drinking green tea may help curb a few heart disease risk factors, including body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol absorption. However, the FDA denied a petition filed by a green tea maker that wanted to put heart-health claims on its product's label, ruling that there wasn’t credible scientific evidence to support the claims.

There is some evidence that green tea may help control glucose (or blood sugar) levels, however, that hasn't been widely tested in people. More research is needed to learn how much green tea would be needed and whether green tea also helps curb body weight and body fat.

Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea. For example, in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent. University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol. To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful:
  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Infection
  • Impaired immune function
The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.


Herbal teas are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant and are not really teas at all. Herbal teas are an infusion of leaves, roots, bark, seeds, or flowers from other types of plants. Common herbal teas include chamomile and mint. They are not associated with the potential health benefits of green, black, or oolong tea. 

You get the most antioxidants from freshly brewed tea; those compounds are reduced in instant tea, decaffeinated tea, and bottled tea. Researchers have not determined how many cups of freshly brewed green tea are recommended each day, but people in Asia typically drink at least three cups daily. 

Fresh brewing is the way to get the most antioxidants from your tea, so knowing how long to steep the tea is an important part of the process. Three to five minutes is the recommended amount of time for maximizing the benefits. 

Iced tea often contains low to negligible amounts of catechins compared with the high concentrations found in a cup of hot tea, because adding water to brewed tea dilutes the concentration. However, iced tea and hot tea could contain approximately the same level of antioxidants if, when preparing iced tea, you use 50% more tea than when preparing a similar amount of hot tea to allow for dilution. About 85% of the tea drunk in the U.S. is iced tea. 

Blended teas are made with teas of different origins, combined to achieve a certain flavor. For example, English Breakfast tea traditionally was a blend of China Keemums tea, but the blend now includes Ceylon and India teas as well. 

Little is known about the effects of green tea on children because the research on green tea has been done on adults. 
Green tea contains caffeine, so pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding shouldn't drink more than one or two servings of green tea per day, according to the American Dietetic Association. People with irregular heartbeats or anxiety disorders also should be cautious about how much caffeine they get, from green tea or other sources. 

A Swiss study found that drinking black tea with a meal reduced iron absorption by 79% to 94% when compared with drinking water. People with an iron deficiency might consider drinking tea only between meals. 

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