Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world after water. In the UK it has been drunk for over 350 years. Today, 77% of British adults drink tea and of the tea consumed in the UK, 95% is black tea.
We drink tea because we enjoy it, we find it comforting, we relax with it, we socialise with it. Tea is good for our health - mental, emotional, social and physical. An increasing amount of scientific research testifies to the health benefits of all teas, black, green, white and others. Teas contain a range of polyphenolic ingredients which are linked with several benefits from heart health to potentially lowering the risk of some cancers and helping with weight loss. All of this is good news for Britain’s tea drinkers, knowing that something they enjoy is linked with health benefits.
But did you know that studies also link tea with beauty factors, not only weight loss but also hydration and skin health? With summer fast approaching we all want to look our best and the good news is that tea can help. In the following e-feature bulletin brought to you by the experts at the Tea Advisory panel (TAP), we take a look at the beauty secrets behind the humble cup of tea.
Good hydration is important for the health of all our body organs, tissues and cells. When summer comes and the sun (hopefully!) shines it can be all too easy to forget about fluid intake. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, even mild dehydration can affect cognition, concentration, the general ability to think clearly and development of headaches.1 Poor hydration can also have an impact on our skin health.
TV presenter and TAP dietician Lynne Garton notes: “Unfortunately, media reports sometimes suggest that water is the only method of hydration while suggesting that other drinks such as tea are not as effective for hydration because they contain caffeine. However, this idea is a myth and it is not backed up by research. Tea is equally as hydrating to water which good news is given that tea is so popular and even better news for our skin health.”
A recent randomised controlled crossover trial conducted by Ruxton and Hart2 looked at the effect of black (regular) tea consumption on hydration. Study respondents drank either four cups of tea or six cups of tea with identical amounts of water as the control (representing a total fluid intake of 1,350mL per day). Each participant took part in both the tea and water study conditions to reduce the risk of bias. Depending on the condition, the caffeine intake was 0mg, 168mg or 252mg per day. Blood samples were taken regularly over a 12-hour period, while urine was collected for 24 hours. Foods and other drinks were controlled during the trial.
The results from this study showed no significant differences between tea and water for any of the hydration markers, including total urine volume, level of electrolytes (eg sodium and potassium) in the blood and urea. These findings therefore suggest that drinking up to six cups of tea per day, has the same hydrating properties to water. The average intake of tea in the UK is two to three cups per day, so most tea drinkers are within the six cups per day range.
In a review of the literature conducted by Dr Ruxton, caffeine intakes of 38-400mg spread throughout the day are well tolerated.3 This equates to a daily maximum of eight cups of tea or four cups of brewed coffee, as one cup of tea contains approximately 50mg of caffeine, while one cup of coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine.
Dr Ruxton’s research is supported by other studies. A two-day intervention, carried out at altitude, reported no differences in 24-hour urine output or hydration measures when participants drank tea or water.4 In a randomised, controlled crossover trial in 18 sedentary adults, the effect of water, cola and coffee on hydration was compared over a 24-hour period. No significant differences were found between the different drinks for any markers of hydration.5
In summary, evidence from scientific studies shows that tea in amounts of 6-8 cups daily is equally as hydrating to water. Anecdotally, people often find tea quite a cooling beverage and research on hydration indicates that tea can play an important part in hydration during the summer months and throughout the year.
The role of tea in skin health
Healthy skin is well hydrated skin. Although the sun is very welcome to most of us, summer temperatures can play havoc with the skin and make it important among other things to ensure good hydration.
Commenting on our skin needs, women’s health expert and TAP member, Dr Catherine Hood notes: “The skin is composed mostly of water and contains a hydro-lipid layer, a protective layer of natural oils and fats which slows down the evaporation of moisture and helps to protect the skin against the external elements while maintaining the skin’s pH. However, high temperatures, air conditioning, dry atmosphere and pollution as well as lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, smoking, too much alcohol and poor hydration can have a detrimental effect on the skin’s defences.”
Drinking enough fluid which can include all types of tea is important for restoring fluid loss which can occur to a greater extent during summer. Adequate hydration can help to keep the skin in good condition.
Polyphenols in tea have been shown to specifically improve the skin quality through their action against free radical attack. In a 12-week double-blind, placebo controlled study 60 women were randomised to consume either a beverage with green tea polyphenols providing 1402 mg total catechins/day or a control beverage.6 Skin photoprotection, structure and function were measured at baseline, at week 6 and week 12. Following exposure of the skin to a solar simulator, UV induced skin redness decreased significantly in the group consuming the beverage containing green tea polyphenols. Likewise in a separate randomised double blind study of green tea polyphenols given in single dose of 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 grams daily, blood flow was maximised at 30 minutes after ingestion, suggesting the capacity of green tea polyphenols to improve skin quality.
White tea has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory activity in human skin. In one study human skin cells were exposed in the laboratory to hydrogen peroxide. White tea was shown to reduce the inflammation that would normally result from hydrogen peroxide exposure.7
Tea and weight loss
Tea consumption has been associated with less weight gain over time. Drinking tea more than once a week has been linked to lower body fat percentages and smaller waist circumferences than non-tea drinkers. Much of the research looking at tea and weight loss has been conducted with green tea catechins. However, both black and green tea have a similar overall flavonoid content and they also come from the same plant Camellia sinensis which most people do not realise.
It is also important to note that all teas, including black tea, with semi-skimmed milk and no sugar, is a lower calorie alternative than other popular drinks. Tea has been recommended to take precedence over other beverages to help reduce energy intake and maintain hydration.8
A 2013 study has demonstrated that replacing sugar sweetened beverages with water or tea resulted in weight loss over a 4-year period. This study recommended that replacing sugar sweetened drinks and fruit juice with tea or water is associated with lower weight gain over time.
Three recent human studies have found that tea is associated with beneficial effects on body weight. One 6-week study10 involving catechin rich green tea plus inulin found significantly greater weight loss and fat mass than the control group. A 12-week study employing barley tea + black tea extracts from Pu-Erh tea found significant weight loss compared to the control group.11 A 12-week study involving catechin enriched green tea in 104 subjects found that this tea was associated with greater visceral fat loss.12
Tea bags for beauty
While tea has great hydrating properties vital for our skin beauty and helps aid weight loss, the humble tea bag can also offer a host of beauty secrets. These include:
• Revitalisation: Tea bags soaked in warm water and placed over closed eyes revitalise tired puffy eyes
• Soothing care: The application of a few wet tea bags to sunburnt skin (although it’s always best to apply sunscreen when exposing skin to the sun) and to burns from other causes, including razor burn and painful nicks and cuts when shaving help soothe the skin and help reduce any inflammation
• Hair know how: Freshly brewed tea as a conditioning final rinse after a shampoo
• Sweet smells: Add a cup of peppermint tea to a foot bath to combat foot odour
• Fresh breath: Peppermint tea makes a great soothing mouthwash
T beauty essentials
TV presenter and TAP dietician, Lynne Garton notes: “With summer just around the corner, make tea part of your beauty regime. Hydration is key in warmer weather and tea in amounts of up to 6 cups daily can play as important a role in hydration as water. Keeping well hydrated is also vital for our skin, helping it to look ‘vibrant’ and youthful. In addition tea polyphenols have been shown to improve skin quality. And don’t forget that tea can also help with weight loss plans”.
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The Tea Advisory Panel: The Tea Advisory Panel is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from the UK TEA COUNCIL, the trade association for the UK tea industry. The Panel has been created to provide media with impartial information regarding the health benefits of tea. Panel members include nutritionists; dieticians and doctors.
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1 Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, Casa DJ, et al. Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. J Nutr. 2012 Feb;142(2):382-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.142000. Epub 2011 Dec 21.
2 Ruxton CHS, Hart VA (2011). A randomised cross-over trial to evaluate the impact of black tea on measures of hydration. British Journal of Nutrition. 106, 4, 588-595.
3 Ruxton CHS (2008) The impact of caffeine on mood, cognitive function, performance and hydration: a review of benefits and risks. Nutrition Bulletin. 33, 1, 15-25.
4 Scott D Rycroft JA, Aspen J, Chapman C, Brown B (2004). The effect of drinking tea at high altitude on hydration status and mood. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 91, 4, 493-498.
5 Grandjean AC, Reimers KJ, Bannick KE, Haven MC (2000). The effect of caffeinated, non-caffeinated, caloric and non-caloric beverages on hydration. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 19, 5, 591-600.
6 Heinrich U, Moore CE, De Spirt S et al. Green tea polyphenols provide photoprotection, increase microcirculation and modulate skin properties of women. J Nutr 2011 2011; 141:1202-1208.
7 Thring TS, Hili P, Naughton DP. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells. J Inflamm (Lond). 2011 Oct 13;8(1):27. doi: 10.1186/1476-9255-8-27.
8 Popkin BM, Armstrong LE, Bray GM et al A new proposed guidance system for beverage consumption in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Mar;83(3):529-42.
9 Pan A, Malik VS, Hao T et al. Changes in water and beverage intake and long-term weight changes: results from three prospective cohort studies. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013 Jan 15. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2012.225. [Epub ahead of print]
10 Yang, H. Y., S. C. Yang, et al. Beneficial effects of catechin-rich green tea and inulin on the body composition of overweight adults. Br J Nutr 2011 107(5): 749-54.
11 Kubota, K., S. Sumi, et al. Improvements of mean body mass index and body weight in preobese and overweight Japanese adults with black Chinese tea (Pu-Erh) water extract Nutrition Research 2011 31(6): 421-428
12 Effects of catechin-enriched green tea beverage on visceral fat loss in adults with a high proportion of visceral fat: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial. Zhang, Y., Y. Yu, et al. Journal of Functional Foods 2012 4(1): 315-322
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