A new study provides some good news for tea drinkers, with results that indicate it may actually be healthy to drink three or more cups of tea per day.
The study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition finds that tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers.
The study contradicts the widely held notion that tea, like coffee, has dehydrating qualities.
Tea contains flavonoids — polyphenol antioxidants that have been shown to help prevent cell damage, and are thought to be the key healthy ingredient in tea, the British Broadcasting Corp. reports.
Dr. Carrie Ruxton, a public health nutritionist at King’s College London, was one of the specialists who looked at the health effects of tea consumption.
“Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it’s got two things going for it,” she told the BBC.
Though the study was funded by The Tea Council, Ruxton stressed that the work was independent.
After reviewing published studies, the researchers found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea per day can reduce the chances of having a heart attack.
Tea consumption also appears to protect tooth plaque and potential tooth decay, and strengthen bones.
There were also indications that drinking tea can reduce the chances of developing cancer, but the effect was less clearly defined.
“Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate. But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid,” Ruxton said.
“Also, a cup of tea contains fluoride, which is good for the teeth,” she added.
Tea drinkers consume, on average, just under three cups of tea per day, Ruxton’s team found.
Claire Williamson of the British Nutrition Foundation said her organization recommends 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid intake per day “and that can include tea. Tea is not dehydrating. It is a healthy drink.”
The only negative effect on health, according to the study, is that tea consumption can harm the body’s ability to absorb iron from food. As a result, people with a high risk of anemia should avoid drinking tea around mealtimes.
(By CTV.ca News Staff, Feb 2006)
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