Guwahati: We all knew about the health properties of tea, but how much do we need to drink for health benefits?

The first-ever food-based guidelines, recently published in Advances in Nutrition, reveal the exact quantities needed to consume for health benefits. The research and guidance is the culmination of a collaboration between the US-based Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Science and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Data shows that consumption of 400-600mg of flavan-3-ols daily (about 2 cups of brewed green or black tea) can help improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Flavan-3-ols are plant compounds found in many foods and drinks, such as tea, berries, craisins, apples, and dark chocolate. True teas – such as black and green – have been found to have the highest concentrations of flavan-3-ols of all foods and beverages evaluated.

Tea industry officials say though India is the second largest tea producer of tea, consumption is still very low and there have been calls by the industry asking the Tea Board of India to undertake generic promotion. 

Chairperson of Indian Tea Association (ITA) Ms Nayantara Palchoudhuri said at a recent meeting that consumption of tea per capita in India despite the increase to 850 grams per day is less than its neighbouring countries. She also requested for a substantive outlay from the Union Commerce Ministry through the Tea Board to enable scaling up of domestic and overseas promotions and the ITA would be happy to associate with the Tea Board in taking this forward.

Representational image

What Are Flavan-3-ols?

Flavan-3-ols are plant compounds found in many foods and drinks, such as tea, berries, craisins, apples, and dark chocolate. True teas – such as black and green – have been found to have the highest concentrations of flavan-3-ols of all foods and beverages evaluated.

For decades, research has consistently demonstrated flavan-3-ols’ ability to help reduce the risk of diet-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes by helping to improve blood pressure, blood flow, cholesterol levels and blood sugar. Flavan-3-ols have even been shown to help protect the body’s cells from damage as we age.

Flavan-3-ols & Diet-Related Disease

These new guidelines could impact broader dietary recommendations and significantly improve the health of people. To establish these guidelines, data was evaluated from 157 randomized control trials and 15 cohort studies as part of a recently published systematic review and meta-analysis. When asked about the significance of the guidelines, lead researcher Kristi Crowe-White, PhD, RD explained, “We know flavan-3-ols found in plant-foods can impact cardiometabolic health by helping to improve blood pressure, blood flow, cholesterol levels and blood sugar making our intake recommendations key to preventing, and improving, disease. Flavan-3-ol rich foods, such as teas, are accessible and affordable and can truly have positive effects on cardiometabolic health. These guidelines are a framework for broader dietary guidance and show the powerful impact food has on health.”

Diet-related diseases not only negatively impact the health of individuals, but also the economy. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States and costs the United States about $229 billion each year. In addition, 37.3 million Americans (about 1 in 10) have diabetes, and 96 million American adults (more than 1 in 3) have prediabetes.  Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and annual medical costs and lost work and wages totals an estimated $327 billion.

Is Tea the Key?

As we look to improve our health and prevent disease through diet, it’s important to know which foods and beverages contain the highest amount of nutrients to reap the most benefits. Tea has been found to have the highest concentrations of flavan-3-ols of all foods and beverages evaluated.

“Teas such as green and black are flavan-3-ol powerhouses. It’s exciting that something like tea, which so many people already consume and enjoy, and is accessible and affordable, can provide us with optimal amounts of flavan-3-ols” said Crowe-White. The newly issued guidance states there is moderate evidence supporting cardiometabolic protection from consuming 400-600mg of flavan-3-ols daily. Following these guidelines, research suggests health benefits can be seen from consuming about two, eight-ounce cups of green or black tea each day. Importantly, these guidelines are food-based recommendations, meaning the flavan-3-ols should be consumed through food and drink and are not applicable recommendations for flavan-3-ol supplements.

“Research has always shown that tea is an inherently healthy beverage, but with this groundbreaking guidance we now have actionable recommendations about how much tea should be consumed to see health benefits” says Peter Goggi, President of the Tea Association of the U.S.A. “By drinking just two cups of true tea each day people will be able to improve their health. Science shows tea is a key beverage to consume if you want to live a long, healthy life.”

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