Is tea good for you?
Tea is a hot beverage with an undeniably healthy image. But how much of that image is grounded in fact, and how much is just good marketing? The media love to run headlines on the health benefits of certain foods, largely because we love to read about easy ways to live healthier, happier lifestyles. But champions of new superfoods often base their claims on individual studies, without weighing less convincing evidence.
The health benefits of tea have been celebrated for thousands of years in China, and its reputation for well-being is also widespread in the West. This means that there have been hundreds of scientific studies on tea's various health benefits over the years. So, given this wealth of information, can we say conclusively whether tea helps you loose weight or gives you healthy skin?
In order to sort fact from fiction, we've looked at meta-studies and surveys on a range of tea related topics. These surveys review all the individual scientific studies looking at say, tea and weight loss, and come to an informed conclusion. We've also used a pinch of common sense, so as to give you a definitive answer on the question of tea and your health.
Does drinking tea improve concentration and mental performance?
Most of us can attest to feeling more awake and focused after a few cups of tea, and quite a few studies suggest that this experience is grounded in science. Caffeine and L-theanine are both abundant in tea and have been found to have multiple cognitive benefits. More studies need to be conducted on the interaction between the two substances, but it is suggested that their combination produces a more focused alertness, compared to the jittery coffee highs of caffeine on its own. In the short term, tea does improve memory retention, along with the speed and accuracy of mental performance.
Can drinking tea help you lose weight?
Unfortunately, the science is less positive on this one. A review from 2012 found no significant weight loss effect from drinking green tea. The studies suggest that if you are already overweight, tea might help, but that the effects are minimal in terms of casual dieting. However, while the chemical make up of tea might not help keep the pounds off, drinking tea certainly won't make you any fatter. Drinking lots of calorie free tea is certainly a healthy replacement for your morning cappuccino, and while tea isn't a magical weight loss drug, that doesn't stop it being good for you.
Tea and your all round health
When it comes to your general well-being, the scientific literature delivers. This 2014 survey finds evidence for a 'modest' reduction in blood pressure for those who consumed green tea. Two reviews, from 2011 and 2013 also found that the antioxidant catechins in green tea helped lower blood pressure and cut cholesterol, although they caution that more long-term studies were needed to assess the extent of these benefits.
Contrary to popular belief, there isn't much evidence to suggest that drinking tea protects you from cancer. A 2009 review found the current evidence 'highly contradictory'. On the other hand, there is no real evidence linking any specific food or drink to cancer prevention. Antioxidants are good for you, but they are naturally occurring in your body, and there is not much evidence to suggest that ingesting more of them lowers your risk of developing cancer.
On other life threatening diseases, the evidence is more promising. This meta analysis found a correlation between drinking extra tea and a lower risk of diabetes, this 2015 meta analysis found that drinking tea was linked to a 37% lower chance of becoming depressed, and a 2014 meta analysis found that tea drinking was associated with a reduced risk of dying in general!
The upshot: Is tea good for you?
Yes. Tea is good for you. There are enough large studies to paint a convincing picture of tea being associated with general good health. It helps you concentrate, lifts your mood, brings down your blood pressure, and lowers the risk factor for a variety of nasty diseases. Claims about healthy skin, weight loss, and cancer prevention are less well substantiated, but there is an important truth to bear in mind here: drinking tea certainly doesn't make any of these things worse. The science may not always be decided yet, so it's worth remembering that there is one other key benefit of drinking the extra cup: taste.