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I'm drinking more tea since I learnt this
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water and is a major source of dietary flavonoids. Yet surprisingly, the way in which tea supports our health is still unknown (June, 2019). Some studies have found that drinking tea also reduces levels of cortisol and therefore stress - useful in these times of the pandemic.
If you don't yet drink enough tea (I don't) then perhaps it is time to take up the habit. Here's why.
For centuries, tea has been anecdotally linked to digestive health, and research studies have convincingly associated consumption of black tea with reduced cardiovascular risk. This benefit of tea is attributed to substances called polyphenols, such as catechins.
Polyphenols are chemical compounds that protect plants from ultraviolet radiation and harmful, disease-causing pathogens. Flavonoids are one type of polyphenol.
Breakdown of black tea improves our gut biome
Polyphenols are also in other (non-black) teas and in orange skin, for example. What's different about the black tea polyphenols (BTP) is that they are heavier molecules and can resist breakdown in our stomach. In other words, BTPs are too large for direct bioavailability for our metabolism - like some fibres which are not readily digestible in our stomach.
It takes the power of our colon break down these big boys, and when that happens, other magic happens associated with our gut biome.
The microflora in the colon bioconvert the BTP to make the polyphenols available to other parts of our metabolism, and concurrently this breakdown improves gut microbial diversity.
Hence, BTPs give us direct benefits associated with polyphenols from their anti-inflammatory and blood pressure-lowering properties. They also give us indirect benefits from the byproducts of breaking down in the gut, such as improvements in platelet and endothelial functions (which may be why black tea benefits diabetics).
The interaction between the gut biome and the rest of our body is still far from understood. Humans are superorganisms, and the gut is part of our super-complicated system of how we stay healthy. Some studies suggest that the BTPs are even more effective when they are digested in conjunction with fibre and especially prebiotic fibres as in bananas.
Black tea antioxidants
The bottom line is antioxidants. Black tea generates antioxidants and these neutralise free radicals.
Excess generation of free radicals has the ability either directly or indirectly to damage our biomolecules including the damage of nucleic acids or proteins. This type of damage is now considered being one of the key catalysts responsible for many chronic disorders and the acceleration of aging.
It is well documented that black tea polyphenols have potential to perform an antioxidant function to neutralise the harmful effects of elevated levels of free radicals.
Nine reasons to drink tea plus one more for the brain
Tea's benefits are all great news for tea drinkers because (black and green) tea offers such an impressive array of benefits - including:
Also, evidence continues to emerge that tea may act to improve cognitive function. For example, a study showed that green tea increases brain activation in a key area that improves immediate language processing and short-term recall. Other research suggests that tea polyphenols may be useful for the prevention or treatment of various neurodegenerative diseases.
In another study, researchers found that black tea consumption was associated with better cognitive performance in adults age 60 and older.
Black tea also contains alkylamine antigens that help boost our immune response. Plus, it contains tannins that have the ability to fight viruses and hence keep us protected from influenza, stomach flu and other such commonly found viruses. Whether it may be protective against the coronavirus is not yet know.
For smokers, however, it has been found that black tea does not confer many of these benefits - just one more important reason to quit.
How many cups should we drink daily?
What we need to know is what "dose" is effective? Some studies have not found beneficial effects, and this has been put down to too low a dose of black tea.
We need to know the "physiologically relevant dosage". We are looking for long-term persistent results, not just directly after drinking tea.
In a study of dose, two healthy volunteers drank 4 cups of Lipton green tea every day for four days. Tests recorded levels of BTP, and its byproducts which were sufficient to activate the associated benefits.
You want to get the most benefits without overdoing the caffeine. However, here is something very interesting about the way caffeine in black tea is bonded with other elements in the tea. Black tea also contains an amino acid known as L-theanine. This amino acid helps to deliver caffeine more smoothly. That means you won't have the classic spikes and drops associated with coffee consumption.
A scientific review published in Nutrition Reviews examined the use of black tea in increasing energy levels. Researchers discovered that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine in black tea enables higher focus and a better ability to avoid distraction.
In any case, consider drinking less than 6 cups of tea per day (black tea has about half the caffeine of coffee).
No sugar of course! Added sugar will do more damage than the benefits of the tea. Unsweetened tea contains zero calories. Looking for a twist? Try adding lemon or mint for a fresher take on your tea.
I mix green and back in the one pot and drink 4 to 5 cups a day. I also cheat a little by emptying a tea bag into my oats each night, which I then heat and cool to make them prebiotic. That way I get the fibre as well as the tea BTPs.
Be careful not to overdo tea drinking through - let your doctor know if you drink a lot.
Good luck. I'm off to have a cup of my mixed tea with lunch.
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