Green tea seems to have become the darling of the health world and for good reason. Studies show that the catechins found in green tea may have some highly beneficial health properties, but don’t let black tea get pushed to the back burner. Black tea appears to have some benefits of its own. What are the health benefits of drinking black tea?
The basic difference between black tea and green tea is that the tea leaves of black tea are allowed to completely ferment before being packaged. Green tea is steamed to prevent the fermentation reaction and then dried before being packaged. Thus, green tea is less processed than its darker counterpart and doesn’t undergo the same fermentation process. The fermentation process that black tea undergoes converts some of the catechins, such as EGCG, to other compounds, thus lowering the content of available EGCG to the body. EGCG has been credited with many of the health benefits that green tea offers. Although black tea may have lower levels of EGCG than green tea, there still appears to be considerable health benefits of drinking black tea.
A study carried out in 2004 showed that drinking black tea was associated with a reduction in levels of the aromatase enzyme, an enzyme that supports the growth of estrogen dependent breast tumors. Some of the standard medications used to treat breast cancer block this particular enzyme. Based on this study, it’s thought that the polyphenols found in black tea may be helpful in the prevention and treatment of estrogen dependent breast tumors. More research is needed on this issue.
A study published in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer in 2006 showed drinking black tea was associated with a reduction in ovarian cancer risk. This effect appeared to be dose dependent, meaning the more black tea consumed, the lower the risk of ovarian cancer. In this same study, similar declines in ovarian cancer risk were seen for decaffeinated coffee, but not coffee containing caffeine. Several studies have also associated drinking black tea with lower LDL and cholesterol levels as well as a reduced risk of stroke and heart disease.
Although green tea may have higher levels of certain catechins, particularly EGCG, it appears to have high enough levels of other polyphenols to have health benefits. Should you choose green tea over black tea? It would be ideal to consume some of both each day. In fact, some companies are now coming out with black and green tea combinations to give the benefits of drinking black tea along with the high EGCG content of green tea. You can also combine the two into one pot at home. It appears that tea in all of its various forms has some health value.