By David Saunders | UPDATED: 11:28, 12 March 2020
As Nutrition & Hydration week clearly shows, what we drink is as important as what we eat.
And this is especially true for tea which benefits several key areas of health, such as cognitive function, gut health and body fat control, according to a growing number of scientific studies.
Marking Nutrition & Hydration week, Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Tea Advisory Panel, notes: “The major nutrition issues facing the UK are different to those in the past – which stemmed from a lack of nutritious food.
“Today’s problems are linked to over-nutrition and longer life span which create the circumstances for obesity, cognitive decline and poor gut health. Interestingly, studies show that drinking tea on a regular basis can help all of these”.
MIND OVER MATTER
Cognitive impairment is a normal part of ageing but can range from mild memory loss to severe problems with recall, speed, accuracy and mental processing.
At the extreme end of the scale are more than 100 types of dementia, the most common being Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Age UK, mild cognitive impairment affects between five and 20 per cent of the population aged 65 or over, while two fifths of people will develop dementia later in life.
Dr Ruxton comments: “A recent review of studies published in Nutrients found that the majority supported a link between regular consumption of green tea and reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Another review in the International Journal of Molecular Science reported that a natural plant compound found in green tea, called epigallocatechin gallate, could cross the blood-brain barrier and promote the creation of new brain cells (neurogenesis). This is an exciting finding and could explain some of the cognitive effects of tea”.
HEALTH INSIDE OUT
Often called the ‘second brain’, the gut is much more than a food tube, containing trillions of bacteria which interact with our metabolism and immune function each day.
Several foods and ingredients have been found to be ‘prebiotic’ – this means they promote ‘good’ bacteria at the expense of ‘bad’ bacteria. Good bacteria, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, have been linked with reduced risk of infections and type 2 diabetes, optimal immune function, higher bone density and even healthier body fat levels.
Dr Tim Bond from TAP comments: “This is an exciting new area of research for tea. A brand new review of 23 studies found that tea has a prebiotic effect and can protect the gut from negative changes caused by high fat diets.
The researchers, writing in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, highlighted the gut-protective effects of polyphenols, polysaccharides, and saponins (steroid-like compounds) found naturally in tea”.
WAIST NOT WANT NOT
With obesity affecting up to two thirds of adults and around a third of children in the UK, urgent action is needed. While eating less and exercising more are clearly vital steps, our choices of drinks can also influence body fat levels.
“Alcoholic or sugar-sweetened drinks have been strongly linked with weight gain and obesity, while water, tea and milk seem to be protective”, says Dr Ruxton. “Clinical trials on tea compounds have found positive short-term effects for weight loss and body fat.
The effects are probably driven by slight increases in energy metabolism and. In one study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, matcha tea combined with 30 minutes of walking significantly increased fat burning in women”.
In conclusion, Dr Tim Bond notes: “As we mark Nutrition & Hydration week, it’s clear that tea is very much part of a healthy optimal diet, helping us to manage our body weight, stay mentally focused and keep our gut bacteria happy”.