A lot has been written lately about the benefits of coffee, with research indicating that caffeinated drinks in the morning can help protect one from everything from type 2 diabetes to cancer. That’s almost a 180-degree turnaround from what doctors were saying in the 1980. If you’re a coffee drinker, that’s great. But don’t get cocky.
Green tea has been one of the most popular beverages in China, Japan, and other Asian cultures for over 4,000 years. Ancient Asian medical practices taught that consuming green tea could heal wounds and cure diseases, and more recent scientific research is beginning to corroborate that by homing in on the potential health benefits of drinking green tea in areas such as weight loss and cancer prevention.
Take that, coffee.
Now, researchers from the American Academy of Periodontology have uncovered yet another benefit of regularly drinking green: A study published in the Journal of Periodontology reported that routine green tea consumption may also help drinkers maintain healthy teeth and gums.
And if that’s not enough, another study from the British Journal of Nutrition suggests green tea might even help lower blood pressure. Frustrated by the inconclusive link in similar previous studies, researchers analyzed 25 randomized controlled trials and made some concrete discoveries: After 12 weeks of regular tea consumption, blood pressure was consistently lower.
The report also noted that while these tests failed to identify the most beneficial daily tea intake, other studies have shown protective results with 3-4 cups per day. And while green tea had a higher rate than black tea, the authors noticed no difference between caffeinated and decaf teas.
Green tea’s health benefits may stem in part from the presence of the antioxidant catechin, since prior research has established antioxidants’ ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Other plant chemicals known as flavonoids help explain why tea drinkers seem less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Short-term studies have demonstrated a link between drinking tea and an improvement in how well blood vessel respond to stress (a measurement known as vascular reactivity). There’s also research that suggests that drinking green tea may lower LDL cholesterol levels.
While most teas offer a certain amount of benefit, green tea is the mother lode. Both black and green teas come from the same plant; the difference occurs after the leaves have been harvested. To make black tea, the leaves are crushed and allowed to oxidize before they are dried; the leaves that go into green tea are not. This oxidation process decreases those flavonoids we just mentioned, although not to a huge degree.
Doctors recommend drinking tea … if you enjoy it. While there are no currently-known downsides to drinking one or two cups of tea a day, it isn’t really medicinal, per se. That means those green-tea-extract supplements promising a concentrated dose of flavonoids have little to no value. And since drinking too much of certain teas can cause kidney damage (like kidney stones), downing seven or eight cups a day strictly for health reasons is long shot, at best.
Of course, all scientific studies are not created equal: one recent report suggests that listeners may literally “hear” you smile over the phone, and that seems kinda iffy. But it’s still good to know that science is finding more and more reasons to indulge your love of tea.
Not that we needed any.