Today (May 21) is International Tea Day! To mark the occasion, we hear from the experts who explore some of the hidden health benefits of tea…

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By Dr Carrie Ruxton and Dr Tim Bond, Tea Advisory Panel

A new study published in the scientific journal, Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, has discovered that a natural substance found in tea, called L-theanine, improves our ability to manage stress and anxiety. The study analysed the results from nine separate studies looking at the effects of L-theanine in human subjects under stressful conditions. Significant improvements in stress handling, anxiety and mood were seen when L-theanine was compared with a placebo.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Tea Advisory Panel, notes: “We all know that putting on the kettle and sitting down to a comforting mug of tea is one of the best ways to feel calm and in control. However, this is due to much more than our love of a traditional cuppa – there’s a lot of science in there.

“Both black and green teas contain polyphenols – plant compounds that help increase the flow of blood to the brain. This brings much-needed oxygen and nutrients when we are under stress.”

Dr Tim Bond from the Tea Advisory Panel adds: “L-theanine – an amino acid which is a protein building block – has been shown in studies that visualise the brain in MRI scanners to stimulate areas of the brain that block out distractions. This helps us to focus on what’s important.

“In addition, L-theanine works with caffeine in tea to boost attention and visual processing abilities which means we can handle new information more efficiently.”

Dr Carrie Ruxton, in summary, notes: “There’s a little boost of comfort and wellbeing in each mug of tea that can help us manage stress and anxiety during these trying times.”

7 Health Benefits of Drinking Tea

  1. Blood Pressure: Drinking tea helps lower the risk of hypertension and improves the health and function of blood vessels.
  2. Bones: Tea consumption appears to improve bone mineral density, especially in the spine, hip and neck. A meta-analysis of 17 studies found that tea consumption may cut the risk of osteoporosis.
  3. Cardiovascular disease: Drinking tea lowers cardiovascular disease risk by up to a fifth – probably due to the rich polyphenol content of tea, which can regulate cholesterol levels and improve vascular function.
  4. Depression and anxiety: Long-term tea consumption is linked with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety symptoms in older people.
  5. Diabetes: One study reported that drinking three cups of tea a day reduced the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 16%.
  6. Weight Management: Studies show reduced body fat in regular tea drinkers, probably because tea polyphenols stimulate fat burning and create positive changes in gut bacteria which act on hunger and appetite signals.
  7. Oral Health: Tea provides 70% of the UK’s dietary fluoride and protects against all three common causes of oral health issues: decay, gum disease and bad breath.