The latest endorsement for the humble British cuppa follows studies linking it to a lower risk of having a stroke or developing diabetes.
The benefits of black tea – the UK’s favourite type – come from antioxidants. These occur in other foods but are more potent in tea.
Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietician and public health nutritionist, has carried out a review of all existing studies.
She was most impressed by how tea combats two types of bacteria linked to tooth decay and gum disease.
“Tea is great for teeth,” she said. “The compounds which give tea its rich colour, called flavonoids, also have potent anti-microbial effects.
“The best effects are seen at three to four cups a day and it would be most effective to drink tea after meals or when sweet foods have been eaten.” The benefits occur even when people have sugar in their tea, says Dr Ruxton. The case for drinking tea to protect against cancer is strongest whenconsidering oral cancers, she says. But it can also balance gut bacteria and fight infections that lead to colon cancer and stomach ulcers.
Caffeine in tea can boost fat burning by about 10 per cent.
She said: “Flavonoids promote fat burning and slow down fat absorption in the gut.
“The modest amount of caffeine found in tea helps to maintain normal metabolic rate during weight loss.”
Diets high in fatty foods and low in fibre cause an imbalance of gut bacteria. The best way to fight them is with probiotics and prebiotics, but studies show a growing role for tea.
Dr Ruxton’s review is published in the British Nutrition Foundation’s Nutrition Bulletin.
Dr Tim Bond, from the Tea Advisory Panel, said: “This adds to the many health benefits associated with the humble cup of tea.”