Health benefits of tea: how these effects vary between different types of tea

Discussion of the health benefits and health effects of tea has flooded the Internet and print publications in recent years. Commonly cited health benefits include antioxidant activity, cancer prevention, cholesterol reduction, blood pressure reduction, stress reduction, antibacterial and antimicrobial activity, and general health improvement and promotion of the general well-being. The tea, made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant, has a long history of use for health purposes. Tea originated thousands of years ago in ancient China as a medicine used to treat various diseases; Over hundreds of years, tea gradually came to be seen as a general tonic for good health and then became a beverage as it is today.

Varieties of Tea:

Tea comes in many varieties, from less-processed white teas to unoxidized green teas, usually steamed or pan-fried, to intermediate oolongs, fully oxidized black teas, and aged pu-erhs. Each of these broad types comes in dozens, if not hundreds, of varieties, and within each variety, individual teas vary greatly from one estate, farm, or factory to another, and even from one year to the next (since they are influenced by variable factors). like the weather). Different teas can have markedly different flavors, aromas, and other characteristics. Not surprisingly, they also have widely varying health benefits.

Are some varieties of tea healthier than others?

Green tea is widely touted as having a myriad of health benefits. Oolong tea (often spelled wu-long in this context) is often promoted as a diet or weight loss drink. Pu-erh tea is promoted as a way to lower cholesterol. White tea often claims to have more antioxidants than other teas. Most of the sources making these claims are companies promoting their own products; they do not cite scientific studies to support their claims. While some of these health claims are true, others may be misleading or even completely incorrect.

Which of these statements are true?

Some of the most widespread and misleading claims about tea are generalizations about one broad class (such as green, black, or white) being universally better than others and are misleading. In reality, the health benefits vary much more between individual teas than between broad categories. Science strongly supports this perspective.

A 2005 article in the Food Science Magazine presented a study of the distribution of catechins and other chemicals in 77 different teas. Catechins are the best known antioxidants in tea and are known to have positive health effects. Most of the teas studied were widely available in supermarkets in the US. The published study can be found here:

The results are surprising: among black teas, the tea with the most catechins had more than 12 times more than the one with the least. Among green and other teas (including white and oolong) the factor was even higher. While green teas tended to have more catechins than black teas, several black teas ranked higher than many of the green teas. Additionally, black tea contains theaflavins, antioxidants not found in green tea except in small amounts. If we accept these measures as a good indicator of health value, this study makes a strong case that the health effects of tea need to be addressed at the level of individual teas, not broad categories.

So how do we maximize our health benefits when we drink tea?

This seems to present a problem. If we are looking for health benefits like antioxidants, and these benefits vary greatly from one tea to another, how are we going to choose what to drink? An obvious long-term solution is for scientists to study and publish the antioxidant content of more teas, as well as continue to investigate and question the validity of various health benefit claims. But until this is done, the best we can do is explore drinking a wide variety of different teas… and perhaps most importantly, be skeptical of bold claims and sweeping generalizations made without reference to rigorous scientific research. .

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