Here are 10 health benefits of black tea, all supported by science.
1. Has antioxidant properties
Antioxidants are known to provide a host of health benefits.
Consuming them can help remove free radicals and decrease cell damage in the body. This ultimately may help decrease the risk of chronic disease (1, 2).
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in certain foods and beverages, including black tea.
Groups of polyphenols, including catechins, theaflavins, and thearubigins, are the main sources of antioxidants in black tea and may promote overall health (3).
In fact, one study in rats examined the role of theaflavins and thearubigins in black tea and the risk of diabetes, obesity, and elevated cholesterol. Results showed that theaflavins and thearubigins reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels (4).
An older study examined the role of catechins from oolong tea on body weight. It found that those who consumed 690 mg of catechins from tea on a daily basis for 12 weeks showed a decrease in body fat (5).
While many supplements contain antioxidants, the best way to consume them is through food and beverages. In fact, some research has found that taking antioxidants in supplement form may harm your health (6).
2. May boost heart health
Black tea contains another group of antioxidants called flavonoids, which benefit heart health.
Along with tea, flavonoids can be found in vegetables, fruits, red wine, and dark chocolate.
Consuming them on a regular basis may help reduce many risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels, and obesity (7, 8).
One large review of studies found that for every cup of tea consumed daily, there was a 4% lower risk of death from heart disease, 2% lower risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular events, a 4% lower risk of stroke, and a 1.5% lower risk of death from all causes (9).
Another large prospective study found that people who drank tea daily had an 8% reduced risk of heart disease and a 10% reduced risk of major cardiac events, like heart attack, compared to those who had not drunk tea in the previous 12 months (10).
Adding black tea to your daily routine is an easy way to incorporate antioxidants into your diet and potentially reduce your risk of future health complications.
3. May lower “bad” LDL cholesterol
The body contains two lipoproteins that transport cholesterol throughout the body.
One is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and the other is high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is considered the “bad” lipoprotein because it transports cholesterol to cells throughout the body. Meanwhile, HDL is considered the “good” lipoprotein because it transports cholesterol away from your cells and to the liver to be removed from the bloodstream.
When there is too much LDL in the body, it can build up in the arteries and cause waxy deposits called plaques. This can lead to problems like heart failure or stroke.
Fortunately, some studies have found that consuming tea may help reduce LDL cholesterol.
One review of well-designed studies found that drinking black tea significantly reduced LDL cholesterol by 4.64mg/dL (11). This effect was more pronounced in people with higher cardiovascular risk.
However, in another well-designed study, drinking five cups of black tea daily did not significantly change levels of total, HDL, or LDL cholesterol in people with borderline-high cholesterol compared to a placebo (12).
4. May improve gut health
Studies have found that the type of bacteria in your gut may play a significant role in your health.
While some of the bacteria in your gut are beneficial for your health, some are not.
In fact, some studies have suggested that the type of bacteria in your gut may play an important role in reducing the risk of certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and even cancer (13).
The polyphenols found in black tea may help maintain a healthy gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria (14).
In addition, black tea may contain antimicrobial properties that kill off harmful substances and improve gut bacteria and immunity by helping repair the lining of the digestive tract.
However, further research is needed before a strong conclusion can be made regarding the role of black tea and immune function (15, 16).
5. May help reduce blood pressure
High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart and kidney failure, stroke, vision loss, and heart attacks. Fortunately, changes in your diet and lifestyle can lower your blood pressure (17).
One review of well-designed studies looked at the effects of drinking tea on blood pressure in people with hypertension, or high blood pressure.
The review found that regular tea intake helped lower systolic blood pressure by 4.81 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.98 mm Hg in people with hypertension (18). Further, those who drank tea regularly for longer than three months experienced even greater decreases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Another review of studies looking at the effects of black tea on blood pressure found that drinking black tea significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to control (19). The effects were more pronounced for men and people who drank black tea for longer than seven days.
Drinking black tea on a daily basis, as well as incorporating other lifestyle modifications like stress management strategies, may benefit those with high blood pressure.
6. May help reduce the risk of stroke
A stroke can occur when a blood vessel in the brain is either blocked or ruptures. It’s the second leading cause of death worldwide (20).
Fortunately, 80% of strokes are preventable. For example, managing your diet, physical activity, blood pressure, and not smoking can help reduce the risk of stroke (21).
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Interestingly, studies have found that drinking black tea may also help reduce the risk of stroke.
One prospective study of 365,682 people looked at the association between drinking tea or coffee and the risk of stroke, dementia, and post-stroke dementia.
After following participants for over 11 years, the study found that those who drank at least two cups of tea had a 16% lower risk of ischemic stroke compared to those who did not drink tea (22).
Another study used genetic predictors associated with tea consumption to determine the association between drinking tea and stroke risk.
The study found that if you are genetically predisposed to drinking more tea per day, you also have a lower risk of stroke (23).
7. May lower blood sugar levels
Elevated blood sugar levels may increase your risk of health complications, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, and depression (24, 25).
Consuming large amounts of sugar, particularly from sweetened beverages, has been shown to increase blood sugar values and the risk of type 2 diabetes (26).
When you consume sugar, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin. Insulin allows the sugar to enter cells, including muscle and liver cells, to be stored as energy, or glycogen. When the body need to use energy, a different hormone, glucagon, is released to help the body break down glycogen to release energy. If you consume more sugar than your body has space to store a glycogen, then the excess sugar gets stored as fat.
Research suggests drinking black tea may help lower your blood sugar following a meal or snack, also known as postprandial glucose.
One small, well-designed study looked at the effect of drinking black tea on blood sugar levels following consumption of a high-sugar beverage.
Twenty-four people, both with and without pre-diabetes, consumed a high-sugar beverage along with either a low- or high-dose of black tea or a placebo. Those who drank the low- or high-dose of black tea had significantly lower postprandial (after eating) blood sugar compared to those who drank a placebo (27).
Other studies suggest black tea may help enhance the use of insulin in the body.
A small study looked at the effects of consuming black tea on insulin response in men with obesity and insulin resistance.
Participants consumed 75g of glucose combined with either 100ml black tea, beetroot juice, or water. Those who consumed the black tea along with the glucose had about 29% lower insulin response compared to those who drank water (28).
This suggests that drinking black tea may help improve insulin sensitivity, especially following a high-sugar meal or snack.
If you are buying black tea, especially pre-made tea, it’s important to check the packaging label. Some brands of pre-made black tea are sweetened with added sugars like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. You can look for pre-made tea that is labeled as non-sweetened.
8. May help reduce the risk of cancer
Over 100 different types of cancer exist, and some are not preventable.
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Nevertheless, the polyphenols found in black tea may help slow the development of certain types of cancer and promote cancer cell death (29).
One rigorous review of studies looking at the effects of tea on cancer risk concluded that drinking tea is associated with a lower risk of oral cancer (30).
The authors state that tea may also be associated with a lower risk of other types of cancers as well, including cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, breasts, ovaries, lungs, and thyroid, but more well-designed studies are needed to know for sure.
Another review of studies looked at the effect of drinking green and black tea on the risk of endometrial cancer.
The study found that those drinking the highest amounts of green tea had a 22% reduced risk of endometrial cancer. Further, every increase in one cup of green tea per day was associated with an 11% reduced risk of developing endometrial cancer (31).
However, no significant association was found between consumption of black tea and endometrial cancer risk.
Although black tea should not be considered an alternative treatment for cancer, some research has demonstrated black tea’s potential to help reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.
More research in humans is needed to more clearly determine the link between black tea and cancer cells.
9. May improve focus
Black tea contains caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine, which can improve alertness and focus.
L-theanine increases alpha activity in the brain, resulting in relaxation and better focus.
Studies have found that beverages containing L-theanine and caffeine have the greatest impact on focus due to the effects of L-theanine on the brain (32).
This may be why many individuals report more stable energy after drinking tea, compared to other caffeinated beverages like coffee.
In one small study investigating the effect of black tea on cognitive performance, participants consumed either 250ml of black tea or water. They were then given tests of executive function, sustained attention, memory, and mathematic calculations.
Those who consumed the black tea performed significantly faster on cognitive tasks, had improved memory, and made fewer errors (33).
The authors conclude that even a small amount of black tea can improve cognitive processing.
This makes black tea a great beverage if you are looking to improve energy and focus without a lot of caffeine.
10. Easy to make
Not only is black tea good for you, it’s also simple to make.
To make black tea, first boil water. If using store-bought tea bags, simply add a tea bag to a mug and fill it with the hot water.
If using loose leaf tea, use 2–3 grams of tea leaves for every six ounces of water in a strainer.
Let the tea steep in the water for 3–5 minutes, depending on your taste preference. For a stronger tea, use more tea leaves and steep for a longer period of time.
After steeping, remove the tea leaves or tea bag from the water and enjoy.