A new research study has shown that tea really can be a pick-me-up - with the caffeine consumed by typical British tea-drinkers benefiting both mind and body without causing health concerns.
The study, published in the March issue of the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin, shows that the caffeine obtained from the equivalent of one to eight cups of tea per day offers a wide range of benefits. These include improved alertness, short-term recall and reaction time, better mood and reduced levels of fatigue.
In addition, the benefits of consuming modest amounts of caffeine, such as those present in tea, begin with the first cup of the day.
The study analysed 41 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials on caffeine consumption published over the past 15 years.
Author Dr Carrie Ruxton, an independent nutritionist, says; 'this study provides further evidence that moderate caffeine sources, such as tea, offer cognitive and performance-related benefits'.
Caffeine is believed to impact on mood and performance by acting on neurotransmitters in the brain.
'Most of the studies supported the idea that taking in modest levels of caffeine everyday makes us more alert, boosts short-term memory and improves reaction time, says Dr Ruxton. ‘There were also consistent findings that caffeine consumption is linked to a positive mood and less feelings of fatigue.'
The level of caffeine intake at which cognitive effects were generated was fairly low - one study showed a beneficial effect from the equivalent of just one-third of a cup of tea.
Dr Catherine Hood from the Tea Advisory Panel comments: 'This is great news for tea drinkers. We already know that tea contains powerful antioxidants, but this study also shows ongoing cognitive benefits from regular levels of tea consumption.'
The research also concluded that caffeine consumption enhances physical performance. One meta-analysis found that caffeine improved exercise test performance by 12 per cent, with the greatest effects seen for endurance exercise. A second analysis concluded that the lower ratings of perceived exhaustion relating to caffeine ingestion accounted for 30 per cent of the improvement in exercise performance.
The impact of caffeine on ratings of perceived exhaustion could partly explain its performance-improvement effects. Habitual intake of caffeine does not appear to diminish performance.
In summary, Dr Ruxton notes: 'There is no evidence that low to moderate intakes of caffeine, even when consumed around extreme exercise, have a negative effect on hydration.'
'The range of caffeine intake that could maximise benefit in relation to mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration would equate to between 1 and 8 cups of tea per day, and any risk of dehydration from this level of intake would be minimal,' concludes Dr Ruxton.
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