What Happens When You Drink Tea Every Day
By Elisabeth Almekinder, Health Journalist, Registered Nurse, and Diabetes Educator for the Manos Unidas North Carolina Farmworker Health Program / Photo by David McLain (The Blue Zones Kitchen)
Black, green, or herbal, we know tea is the longevity drink enjoyed among the longest-lived people in the world, but how does it work to extend longevity, relieve stress, protect against cancer, and decrease the risk of heart disease?
Why tea is a longevity beverage
With over 1,500 varieties, not including all the different herbal blends, it’s a comforting and pleasant drink with healing effects. In the blue zones, where it’s consumed regularly, it’s thought to be healthier than water. Green tea provides strong immune support for fighting diseases and prolonging a quality life. Tea leaves contain powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that help to prevent cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and other chronic problems. Polyphenols are normally found in large amounts in fruits, vegetables, grains, coffee, and wine. The specific polyphenols in tea are called catechins or EGCG, which are more powerful than the polyphenols contained anywhere else in nature.
How does tea prevent cancer?
Cancer cells have special properties that allow them to stay alive longer than normal, healthy cells. When normal cells die, cancer cells tend to grow and spread throughout the body.
Many studies have touted the effects of green tea on cancerous cells. It’s been found to slow the growth of lung cancer cells and breast tumors. Women who regularly drink green tea were found in a meta-analysis to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. In the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Screening Trial, which included more than 100,000 people, researchers found that those who consumed green tea had a lower overall risk of all cancers.
Other research points to tea having little effect on cancer. More studies are needed. Even if the jury is still out on drinking tea to prevent cancer, there are plenty of other health benefits you can reap from drinking tea.
Can tea protect us from heart disease and high blood pressure?
In Japan, green tea is one of the most popular drinks. In a study of more than 40,000 Japanese who drank tea regularly, there was a significantly lower risk of developing heart disease. The studies showed an over 30 percent lower risk for women and an over 20 percent lowered risk in men.
Stroke deaths were even lower in this Japanese population with over 60 percent reduction in women and over 40 percent in men. Catechins are known to stop the production of free radicals in the arteries and tissues, which prevents the forming of blood clots.
Drinking green tea for one year lowers high blood pressure by over 45 percent in those subjects who drank two and a half cups per day. For those who drank more than two and a half cups, high blood pressure decreased by 65 percent. In fact, the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concludes that tea, particularly green tea and EGCG, are beneficial to heart health and metabolism.
Can tea protect us from death by all causes?
The study that took place in Japan also looked at death from all causes when green tea is consumed regularly. In surprising findings, the researchers concluded that Japanese adults between the ages of 40 and 79, had a decrease in all-cause mortality if they consumed up to five or more cups of green tea per day. It was significant, with women having a 23 percent lower risk of death by all causes; and men having a 12 percent lower risk.
Will tea help me relax?
As it turns out, tea also decreases stress by increasing relaxation level and concentration. The amino acid, L-theanine, counteracts any caffeine in the tea and the agitation that may go along with it. Tea is the only way you can get this supplement in your diet without taking a manufactured supplement.
Amino acids are said to increase the activity in the brain to achieve a state of relaxed concentration. The highest concentrations of L-theanine are in green and white tea varieties. Its been shown to help lower Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL), or bad cholesterol, fight body fat accumulation, inhibit viral illnesses such as the cold or the flu and reduce the buildup of plaque on the teeth.
[Related: Foamy Golden Milk Latte]
Ikaria, Greece, tea, and longevity
The Ikarians show almost no signs of dementia or many of the other chronic illnesses that affect the Western world. Their family values, long-standing traditions and their love of herbal teas, among other things, allow a third of the Ikarians to live to at least age 90. They drink strong red wine, stay up late, sleep in, and know how to relax. They are active outdoors and in their gardens. They live like mountain people and eat a healthy Mediterranean-style diet.
In addition to their diet rich in beans, wild greens, olive oil, lemons, and potatoes, they frequently brew tea from wild herbs. Greek teas may offer specific beneficial effects: wild mint as a way to prevent gingivitis and ulcers, rosemary to treat gout, artemisia to improve blood circulation. When Dan Buettner was in Ikaria studying the diets of the longest-lived, healthiest people, he sent samples of Ikarian herbal teas to be laboratory tested and found that they all had antioxidant properties in addition to functioning as mild diuretics. So not only do they contain powerful antioxidants but they can also help flush waste products from the body and slightly lower blood pressure.
How about herbal teas?
There are many kinds of herbal teas. The list below represents some of the herbal teas available:
- Lemon balm
Hot, cold, iced or spiced, tea can be enjoyed in many ways that are just as varied as the many teas themselves. Make sun tea by placing your tea bags in a covered pitcher of water and letting the sun steep it. Add mint, lemon, or other fresh fruits to your tea to create customized infusions. For stove tea, bring your water just under a boil, remove from the stove eye, and place your choice of tea bags in hot, not boiling water, for at least 10 minutes to steep.