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The health benefits of tea
01/06/2014

It’s no secret that people love to drink tea. Tea has been around for centuries and many believe it originated in China as early as 1500 B.C., where it was used for medicinal purposes. In fact, one early Chinese medical text states “to drink bitter tea constantly makes one think better.” Gradually, the use of tea spread to Asia and Europe. By the 6th century A.D., it had made its way to Japan and became popular in Great Britain in the 1600s. Fast forward several hundred years and tea is more popular than ever. It may sound like a high number, but on a given day more than 158 million people in America choose to drink tea. Tea can be found in more than 80 percent of American households, and ranks second to water as the most widely consumed beverage in the world.

Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says there are several types of teas, many of which have health benefits that can be supported by science. “In the United States, about 84 percent of tea that is consumed is black tea,” Tillman said. “Black tea contains high concentrations of antioxidant compounds theaflavin and thearubigins, which have been linked to lower levels of cholesterol. Research has shown that people who drink three or more cups of black tea per day also have a 21 percent decreased risk of stroke. There is, however, caffeine in black tea, with most cups containing around 40 milligrams each,” she explained.

Another very popular tea in the U.S. is green tea. “Green tea accounts for about 15 percent of all teas consumed in America,” Tillman explained. “It contains antioxidants, as well, including EGCG, which some studies suggest can reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. One study found that each daily cup of green tea lowered heart disease risk by as much as 10 percent. Other studies have suggested that green tea may result in a reduction in body fat,” she said. “Most green teas contain about 25 milligrams of caffeine per cup,” she added.

The remaining one percent of teas consumed in most U.S. households typically comes from three categories: white teas, herbal teas and oolong teas. “White teas have a milder flavor than other varieties, as well as lower levels of caffeine,” Tillman said. “White teas carry the potential for cardiovascular and cancer-fighting benefits, and some research suggests it also can help manage diabetes. Herbal teas actually aren’t teas at all. Typically, these are a combination of dried fruit, flowers and herbs, but like teas, they also have potential health benefits. For instance, one study found that three cups of hibiscus tea each day can help lower blood pressure. Chamomile tea can promote sleep, and peppermint tea has been known to ease the stomach,” she explained. “Oolong tea is similar to black tea, both in health benefits and caffeine content. Oolong tea is fermented for a shorter amount of time, which gives it a richer taste. It also can potentially aid in weight loss. One study found that women who drank oolong tea burned slightly more calories than those who drank only water,” she added.

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