A study indicates that drinking between two and three cups of black tea a day is associated with a lower risk of mortality. Find out how to prepare it well to get the most out of it.
Tea is one of the most consumed beverages in the world.
Previous studies have found an association between green tea consumption and lower mortality risk, but what about black tea? Is it good to drink it or is it better to opt for other types of tea?
BLACK TEA REDUCES THE RISK OF DEATH
An article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has linked the consumption of black tea with a lower risk of mortality. The researchers used data from the UK Biobank, a country where black tea consumption is common, and looked at how its intake affects the risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality.
They also tested whether the associations vary whether common tea additives (milk and sugar) are used, depending on the temperature of the tea, or on genetic variants that affect the rate at which people metabolize caffeine.
They found that the risk was lower in people who drank two or more cups of black tea a day.
Specifically, the results indicate that participants who drank two or more cups a day had a mortality risk between 9% and 13% lower.
This was true regardless of whether they also drank coffee, added milk or sugar to tea, what their preferred tea temperature was, or genetic variants linked to caffeine metabolism.
“This article shows that regular consumption of black tea (the most widely consumed in Europe) is associated with a modest reduction in total mortality and, especially, due to cardiovascular disease over 10 years in the general middle-aged adult population, mostly white”, explains Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, professor of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the Autonomous University of Madrid, in statements to the Science Media Center (SMC).
However, being an observational study, it cannot be definitively stated that black tea is the cause of the lower mortality and that there were no other associated factors.
“It is desirable that studies similar to this one be carried out in the future only in people with cardiovascular disease, mainly ischemic heart disease or atrial fibrillation, to ensure that in them the caffeine in tea is safe and that regular consumption of tea brings certain benefits”, says Rodríguez Artalejo, who is also a member of CIBERESP and IMDEA-Food.
WHAT IS BLACK TEA
Black tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, the same leaves used to make green tea, oolong tea, and white tea. And it is that, in reality, black tea is green tea that has been fermented.
Its fermentation causes the cells to oxidize and, therefore, it loses its original antioxidant compounds, the polyphenols.
THE SECRET OF BLACK TEA
In a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Scientists from the Research and Health area of the IFAPA Center, linked to the Andalusian Government, managed to identify some beneficial compounds present only in black tea.
The substances that are generated during the fermentation process of this tea, theaflavins, are absorbed up to 94% during the digestion process.
The intestine is responsible for taking advantage of these beneficial compounds
And why is this so important? Because these compounds, like polyphenols, also contain antioxidant properties. Theaflavins may also help protect us from cancer, infections, diabetes and heart disease, the report’s authors say.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE BENEFITS OF BLACK TEA
The study, in which the universities of Glasgow (United Kingdom), Parma (Italy) and California (USA) also participated, shows that the highest concentration of this substance in urine occurs 12 hours after taking it.
This means that the one in charge of absorbing is the large intestine. There, “theaflavins undergo a major chemical transformation that converts them into simpler molecules which are absorbed and metabolized into the bloodstream and, where appropriate, reach target organs to exert their beneficial action,” Gema Pereira explained to Saber Vivir -Caro, main author of the report.
THE MICROBIOTA HELPS YOUR HEALTH
Thus, for theaflavins to pass into the bloodstream (and we can take better advantage of their properties) it is essential that there is something that “breaks” them into smaller pieces. These are, nothing more and nothing less, than the good bacteria of the intestine, also known as the microbiota. And it is in the large intestine (or colon) where this type of bacteria is most concentrated (it is estimated that there are between 100,000 million and one trillion per gram).
Without the microbiota, it would be more difficult for these compounds to pass into the blood
“Due to their complexity and size, theaflavins are not absorbed in the stomach or small intestine. In our study we have shown that, thanks to the action of the colonic microbiota, these molecules are largely transformed into other more simple (of low molecular size), which will be able to be absorbed and metabolized by the body”, says José Manuel Moreno-Rojas, Coordinator of the Food and Health Area of IFAPA.
In this sense, we must not forget that the number and type of bacteria that inhabit our colon can vary greatly from one person to another. Diet, lifestyle, age… are factors that condition our microbiota. “The transformation and, therefore, the absorption of theaflavins in the body is going to be highly conditioned by the composition of the microbiota. Therefore, the poorer our microbiota is, the less “healthy” the consumption of theaflavins will be through intake of black tea”, remarks Gema Pereira-Caro.
Therefore, we recommend taking special care of the health of the intestinal flora. You can achieve this by including foods rich in prebiotics such as asparagus, onions or bananas (which stimulate the growth of these bacteria) in your menus. Probiotics from yogurt, olives or sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) are also good for you, because they regenerate and maintain the balance of the microbiota.
The fact of discovering the mechanism that explains in detail how theaflavins are absorbed by our body opens a new avenue for future research related to very serious diseases. “With the results of our study, the scientific community can verify how these molecules act on cell models in culture, for example in breast, colon or liver cancer, and corroborate their effectiveness”, points out its main author.
HOW TO PREPARE A BLACK TEA WELL
To make the most of the virtues of black tea, take note of the following tips:
When you add the tea to the water, do not leave it boiling. The water must be hot, yes, but to make the most of its virtues and not lose its aroma, you must remove the water from the heat when it begins to boil. Add a teaspoon of tea per cup (or a ready-made bag) and let it steep for 3-4 minutes. After this time, remove the tea leaves (otherwise the infusion could end up with too strong a taste).
It is better that you do not add sugar: abusing it could damage the microbiota
If you want to sweeten it, opt better for honey, stevia or a pinch of cinnamon than for sugar (numerous studies suggest that abusing refining could end up damaging the microbiota which, as you have seen, is essential to take advantage of the virtues of tea).
If what you want is to reduce its flavor, you can add a little of your favorite vegetable drink (oatmeal, rice…). Mint and lemon also go very well with black tea.
Finally, remember that black tea is the one that contains the most caffeine. That is why it is ideal to drink it in the morning (if you already drink coffee, try to allow 2 or 3 hours to pass before preparing your tea). In any case, do not drink more than three cups a day and avoid it if you suffer from insomnia, stress or anxiety.
With information from Saber Vivir.