The Truth About Tea

We’ve all heard how bad tea was for us if we drank too much. The Tea Council in Britain got fed up with it and here are their answers to the doomsayers! (The Tea Council is an independent body dedicated to promoting tea for the benefit of those who produce, sell and enjoy tea).

1. Tea contains more caffeine than coffee
On the contrary, tea contains far less caffeine than coffee, in terms of mg of caffeine per serving: Tea has 50 mg/serving, Cola 11-70 per 330ml can (regular & diet), instant coffee 75mg per 190ml cup, brewed coffee 100-115 per 190ml cup (filter/percolated).

2. Tea is a diuretic
Tea does not have a diuretic effect due to caffeine, unless the amount of tea consumed at one sitting contains more than 250 – 300mg caffeine, which is equivalent to between five and six cups of tea. In fact, due to the volume of fluid that is drunk whilst enjoying a cuppa, the British Dietetic Association advises that tea can contribute towards the daily-recommended fluid intake of 1.5 to 2 litres.

3. Herbal teas are a healthy alternative to your normal cuppa
Not necessarily. There is substantial evidence that tea is rich in powerful antioxidants called flavonoids. Increasing evidence also shows that antioxidants found in tea, fruit and vegetables form an important part of a healthy diet.
Many herbal infusions contain pharmacologically active ingredients and antioxidants that are claimed to have positive benefits. However, recent research has shown that antioxidant levels in black tea are substantially greater than those in most herbal infusions and that one or two cups of tea provide a similar antioxidant activity to five portions of fruit and vegetables or 400 mg vitamin C.

4. Green tea contains no caffeine
Black and green tea are produced from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, so both green and black tea naturally contain caffeine.

5. Green tea is healthier than black tea
No. Green and black teas both contain similar amounts of flavonoid components which differ in their nature. Green tea contains proportionally more of the simple flavonoids called catechins while black tea mainly comprises more complex flavonoids called theaflavins and thearubigins. Both these simple and complex flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancers.

6. The antioxidants in tea have little biological activity
Research is now suggesting that antioxidants may have a protective role to play in certain conditions such as heart disease, stroke and cancers. It is well known that fruit and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants. However, what is less well known is the amount of antioxidants present in tea. In fact, there is eight times the amount of ‘antioxidant power’ in three cups of tea as there is in one apple, and every time you brew up in a cup or a pot for up to one minute, 140mg of flavonoids are delivered. So as well as eating more fruit and vegetables, antioxidant intake can be topped up by drinking tea.

Research has shown that some of these antioxidants are absorbed by the body which may account for the results from a number of population studies suggesting that the antioxidants in tea may help towards maintaining a healthy heart. There have also been a number of studies to explain tea’s beneficial effects on the heart, including its effect on blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood vessel function and blood clot formation. The scientific evidence for positive health effects of tea on these functions is growing but is not yet conclusive.

7. Adding milk to tea reduces the antioxidant activity
On the contrary, results from a couple of studies have found that the flavonoids from tea were equally absorbed from both tea with and without milk, concluding that the addition of milk did not effect the body’s ability to use these antioxidants.

8. Huge amounts of tea need to be consumed to derive any health benefits
Just one cup of tea contains a rich source of antioxidants called flavonoids. Intakes of three to five cups of tea a day have been associated with health benefits.

9. Tea is bad for your teeth because it stains them
On the contrary, recent research suggests that flavonoids and fluoride in tea may actually be beneficial to teeth by reducing cavities and helping to prevent plaque from developing. As long as teeth are brushed regularly, stains will be removed.

10. Drinking tea with meals reduces the absorption of iron from foods
Tea consumption will not result in iron deficiency for people in normal health and who eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet. The absorption of iron from food is influenced by a number of factors. These include the quantity of iron, its chemical form (haem-iron and non-haem-iron), interaction with other dietary components and physiological factors in the individual. For example uptake is increased when the body’s stores are depleted and when needs are greatest, such as growing children or menstruating or pregnant women. Western diets normally contain both types of iron. Haem iron is found in high levels in meat and its ready absorption by the body (up to 25%) is unaffected by tea drinking. Non-haem (or ionic) iron found in cereals, fruits and vegetables is less well absorbed and its absorption is influenced by a wide variety of dietary components which include enhancers e.g. orange juice (vitamin C) and inhibitors e.g. tea (polyphenols). Therefore for those suffering from iron deficiency or from health problems related to low iron levels, it would be prudent to avoid drinking tea with meals.