The benefits of black tea continue to emerge

Tea consumption – beyond iced and ready-to-drink – increased exponentially in the United States during the pandemic. Whereas, in the United Kingdom, tea has been drunk for over 350 years with a reported 77% of British adults being tea drinkers. Both countries have a clear preference for black tea: of the tea consumed in the UK, 95% is black tea; in the US, around 84% of the tea consumed is black tea. And while green and black teas contain similar amounts of antioxidants and caffeine, green tea has the perception of having more health benefits because of its high level of catechins (particularly epigallocatechin 3 gallate and L-theanine). Good news for black tea drinkers — new research highlights the health benefits of thearubigins, a polyphenol that is found only in black tea.

A recent scientific review, published in the journal, Nutrition & Food Technology, argues that the little-known polyphenols called thearubigins, found in black tea, have powerful health benefits. The potential health benefits of black tea are well documented but the specific roles of thearubigins are less widely published.

Thearubigins (TRs) are major components of black tea that provide its distinctive dark, brown colour. The new review, undertaken by the UK-based Tea Advisory Panel, examined the results from five human studies and 17 laboratory studies looking specifically at thearubigins, one of the flavonoid group of polyphenols, and the inter-relationships between thearubigin intakes and health. The main areas of health that could be influenced by thearubigins were gut health, blood pressure, and anti-cancer effects, in part due to their powerful antioxidant potential and anti-inflammatory effects.

“Research on thearubigins is at an early stage in comparison with the wealth of data we have on the benefits of drinking green and black teas. However, it’s clear from laboratory studies that thearubigins are important antioxidants and appear to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as regulating gut function,” said lead author Dr Tim Bond. “Thearubigins could be key to understanding the mechanisms behind the well-known health benefits of black tea and the identification of actives that are responsible for these. We now need to build on this work with clinical trials in human populations.”

Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Tea Advisory Panel, added, “Health features are often full of good news about green tea and our much-loved British cuppa can be overlooked. This new review is great for people who prefer a regular cup of black tea and adds to the considerable evidence on tea’s role in maintaining heart health, cognitive function and gut health.”

Brits have the highest thearubigin intake in Europe with the average tea drinker taking in 327 mg daily — more than double the European average of 156 mg and 50 times higher than the intakes in Spain (American tea drinkers were not included in the study).

While the review found that while a growing body of evidence (from laboratory/cell studies) signifies that thearubigins could have potential health roles, including antioxidant,  antimutagenic and anticancer properties, along with the ability to reduce inflammation and improve gastrointestinal motility, in concluded that “well-designed human trials are now needed to further investigate thearubigin intakes from dietary sources in relation to specific health outcomes.”

So, go ahead and continue to enjoy that traditional English “cuppa tea,” perhaps, though, omit the sugary additives…

Related content

Leave a reply

Tea & Coffee Trade Journal