Can tea prevent cancer and improve overall health?

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Drinking tea may improve heart and brain health, immune function, and reduces cancer risk, a study found. BONNINSTUDIO/Stocksy
  • During a recent symposium on the health benefits of tea, researchers from across the globe shared evidence suggesting that tea consumption may improve cardiovascular health, immune function, cognitive health, and reduce the risk of cancer.
  • The researchers noted that better quality evidence is needed to further establish these beneficial effects of tea consumption, including larger cohort studies and randomized clinical trials.
  • The researchers advocated that people incorporate 2-4 cups of unsweetened tea into the daily diet as a source of flavonoids, which are responsible to a large extent for these beneficial effects.

Leading scientists in the field of tea research recently met virtually at the Sixth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health to discuss the current state of knowledge and the gaps in understanding about the benefits of tea. Researchers discussed many topics at the symposium, which included the potential beneficial effects of tea on cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and the prevention of cancer.

The conference was organized by the Tea Council of the USA, the public relations arm of the Tea industry whose primary aim is to encourage greater tea consumption. It accomplishes this by furthering tea science and “establishing tea as a healthy, good for you beverage.”

Here is a breakdown of the main findings, and why it may be too early to draw definitive conclusions.

Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, after water. The four primary types of tea include white, green, Oolong, and black. All four teas are derived from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but differ in how they are processed after harvesting.

Tea contains a wide array of components that have biological activity, including flavonoids, L-theanine, and caffeine. Many of the beneficial effects of tea are due to the high levels of flavonoids, such as catechins, which have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties.

The differences in the manufacturing process can influence the chemical composition and the beneficial effects of the different tea types. For instance, green tea is roasted before it can oxidize and hence, contains higher levels of catechins. In contrast, black tea is allowed to oxidize and has lower levels of catechins. Meanwhile, black tea contains larger amounts of other flavonoids called thearubigins and theaflavins, which also possess antioxidant properties.

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