WHETHER you like it weak, strong, sweet or black, the builders’ favourite brew – tea – is packed with health benefits.
Approximately 100million cups of it are drunk in Britain every day – that’s a whopping 36.5billion cups a year – and new research says it helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for a quarter of all deaths in the UK.
Scientists from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia studied more than 800 women and found that those with high levels of flavonoids – substances found in tea – were far less likely to have aortic calcification, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
But as Clare O’Reilly has discovered, it’s not just heart health that the humble mug of tea can help with . . .
REDUCES BLOOD PRESSURE
MORE than 14million of us live with high blood pressure, and it is known as a “silent killer” for good reason.
As many as five million people are thought to be undiagnosed, according to the British Heart Foundation.
There are rarely signs or symptoms, so for some the first they know of their high blood pressure is when they suffer a stroke or heart attack.
But research from Poland has found that drinking tea can help to reduce raised pressure.
The condition can also cause heart and kidney failure as well as vision loss.
But the Polish study not only found that regular cups of tea had a lowering effect, but that the benefits were even greater for those who drank tea for longer than seven days.
Nutritionist Kim Pearson says: “While the scientific correlation between drinking tea and reducing blood pressure is evident, turning a cup of tea into a time to spend a few minutes relaxing and unwinding might also help with feelings of relaxation.
“Maybe also try some deep breathing or a few pages of a book.”
IMPROVES GUT HEALTH
WHETHER you have it with milk or not, tea is packed with compounds called polyphenols, which have been shown to improve gut health.
Kim says: “We know gut bacteria, which make up the gut biome, are closely linked to a lot of health conditions.
“A healthy gut can reduce the risk of several long-term health conditions, including obesity.”
REDUCES RISK OF STROKE
SUFFERING a stroke can be fatal, and those who survive can be left paralysed, unable to talk and plagued by a host of other debilitating side-effects.
But considering that 80 per cent of strokes are avoidable, the good news is that a daily mug or two of tea might help reduce your risk.
Scientists at Tianjin Medical University in China studied more than 365,000 participants aged between 50 and 74, over 11 years.
They found that people who enjoyed two to three cups of tea daily as well as two to three cups of coffee had a 32 per cent lower risk of stroke.
REDUCES DIABETES RISK
DIABETES is a serious condition where the body cannot produce the hormone insulin, or the insulin it makes does not work properly to process sugar.
This then builds up in the bloodstream, and in the long term damaged blood vessels and organs.
A small study at Mahidol University in Thailand found that volunteers with and without pre-diabetes who drank black tea had lower blood sugar levels than a placebo group.
Another study in the Netherlands suggests that drinking tea helps the body to use insulin more efficiently.
Kim tells Sun Health: “The link between diabetes and tea has been subject to a lot of research in recent years.
“The findings so far suggest it lowers blood sugar and encourages insulin, meaning it has a double benefit when it comes to reducing diabetes risk.
“Its impacts are likely to be small and the most important thing is to eat a healthy diet and not minimise the impact of sugar on health, which means drink the tea, but avoid the biscuits.”
WE all experience stress in our lives, but when it builds up over time and goes unchecked it can lead to physical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
But researchers at University College London found that drinking tea reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
They gave 75 volunteers four cups of tea a day for six weeks, measuring cortisol levels at the start and end of the study.
The results showed drinking tea led to lower levels and more relaxed volunteers.
Kim says: “Warm drinks often have a calming effect, but it can be a placebo in drinks other than tea.
“Putting the kettle on if you’re feeling stressed is something lots of people do and the science proves it works. But drink it in moderation and be mindful of how the caffeine in tea affects you.”
IF you’re struggling to concentrate on the task at hand, it could help to pop the kettle on.
It might feel like the ultimate procrastination, but research from the National Institute of Neuroscience in Tokyo found drinking tea – which contains an amino acid called L-Theanine – improves brain focus and activity.
Several other studies have linked tea-drinking with increased concentration too, including one from Bangladesh which found participants who had a brew performed better on cognitive tasks.
Researchers have also found that drinking black or green tea can boost memory function.
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