Study: Drinking Tea Defends Your Brain

New research adds stroke prevention to a long list of tea-drinking benefits.

July 9, 2009

Potent potable: Brewed iced tea contains natural health-boosting chemicals.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Cool off this weekend with a tall glass of iced tea, and you may do more than just quench your thirst. A new study published in the journal Stroke found that long-term consumption of black, green, oolong, or white tea can cut your risk of strokes by as much as 60 percent. It’s the latest addition to a long checklist of tea’s health-boosting properties.

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THE DETAILS: Researchers recruited 838 patients from hospitals in southern China, 374 of whom had had strokes. Using questionnaires, they collected information on the types and quantity of tea consumed, how long the patients had been drinking tea, and other diet and lifestyle characteristics. The largest reduction in stroke risk was seen in people who’d drunk one to two cups of green or oolong tea every day, but the researchers also noticed a significant decrease in stroke risk among tea drinkers who had as little as one cup per week (black, green, white, or oolong).

WHAT IT MEANS: Start drinking tea now to save yourself from strokes later in life. You’ll get the greatest benefits from long-term consumption. Stick with freshly brewed black, green, white, and oolong teas if you want to cut your risk of stroke, however. Powdered and bottled teas are more processed and may lose antioxidants. But if you like your tea iced, good news: A test by Prevention magazine found that homemade iced tea contained as many stroke-fighting antioxidants as hot tea. Also, buy tea that’s organic—better for the environment—and Fair Trade Certified, meaning that the workers who grew it were guaranteed fair wages and that no child labor was involved.

Here’s a rundown of the major tea types and how to make them:

• Black tea. Black tea has antioxidant levels equal to those of green tea, and it’s been found helpful in preventing heart disease. To brew it, let the water come to a full boil; that not only improves the flavor, but the heat from boiling water unleashes higher levels of antioxidants. Steep the leaves for three to five minutes; if you leave them in longer than that, the tea will taste bitter.

• Green tea. Green tea not only keeps strokes at bay, but a study from Italy found that drinking three cups of green tea daily prevented prostate cancer in men who had precancerous cells indicating the presence of the disease. Unlike black tea, green tea turns bitter if you steep it in boiling water. Bring the water to a boil and wait 60 seconds for it to cool down to 160 degrees F, and steep the leaves for only one to two minutes.

• White tea. White tea is made from young tea leaves that are harvested just before the buds open, and as a result, it has lower levels of caffeine and a slightly sweeter taste than black, oolong, or green tea. White tea has also been found to be effective at fighting infections caused by staph and streptococcus bacteria, pneumonia, and tooth decay. It tastes best brewed in water that’s 185 degrees F, so wait 30 seconds after boiling the water for it to cool down. White tea also needs to steep longer than black or green tea, anywhere from four to 15 minutes.

• Oolong tea. Oolong teas fall somewhere between green and black, in terms of taste, and they have high levels of polyphenols, which protect against heart disease and strokes. It has a little more caffeine than green tea. Use water just below boiling, between 185 degrees and 190 degrees, and steep the leaves for three to four minutes.

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