Tea is in. The average American drinks some 155 cups a year.
There is no doubt that tea is an invigorating drink – probably due to how much caffeine is in tea (about half the caffeine of coffee).
And the national waistline would be far better off if we replaced some of that soda with tea (provided we sipped it with little or no sugar).
But does tea lower the risk of heart disease and obesity, as some companies claim? Let’s check the tea leaves.
Is tea good for your heart?
“Tea drinking is associated with improved cardiovascular health,” says the Tea Association’s web site. Yet the Food and Drug Administration concluded recently that “there is no credible scientific evidence” that green tea can reduce the risk of heart disease. (The evidence for black tea isn’t good, either.)
The FDA reviewed the evidence after a Japanese company asked for permission to say on its labels that its green tea could lower the risk of heart disease. In the seven good clinical studies submitted by the company, green tea or green tea extracts did nothing to lower cholesterol or blood pressure. The FDA denied the company’s petition.
Drinking tea doesn’t appear to prevent heart disease. While one brand of tea extract lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in one published study, that’s not enough to conclude that it works.
Will tea help you lose weight?
Does it matter how much caffeine is in tea if you are trying to lose weight? When Dutch researchers added 596 mg of EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate, an antioxidant that occurs naturally in tea) and 237 mg of caffeine to the diets of 23 overweight women who were trying to lose weight, the women burned no more calories after one month—and shed no more pounds over a 12-week period—than 23 similar women who were given a placebo.
When the same researchers added 270 mg of EGCG and 150 mg of caffeine to the diets of 38 men and women who had already lost weight, the dieters gained back as many pounds after 12 weeks as 38 similar people who were given a placebo.
In contrast, when researchers at a Japanese green tea-extract manufacturer gave 136 mg of EGCG and 75 mg of caffeine to 17 dieting employees at the company, the volunteers lost 21⁄2 more pounds after 12 weeks than 17 similar employees who got a placebo.
In a few very-short-term studies, people burned slightly more calories when given EGCG plus caffeine. But in longer-term studies, the combination had no consistent impact on weight.
Sources: Br. J. Nutr. 94: 1026, 2005. Obes. Res.13: 1195, 2005. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 81: 122, 2005.
How much caffeine is in tea?
Studies or not, tea is one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world, second only to water. We’ve put together a short list that tells you how much caffeine is in tea. Compare the caffeine content in your favorite teas with our list below.
- Starbucks Classic Chai Tea Latte (grande, 16 fl. oz.) – 95 mg
- Starbucks Teavana Green Tea Latte—Iced or regular (grande, 16 fl. oz.) – 80 mg
- Starbucks Teavana Earl Grey Brewed Tea (grande, 16 fl. oz.) – 65 mg
- Pure Leaf Lemon Iced Tea (18.5 fl. oz.) – 57 mg
- Black tea, brewed for 3 minutes (8 fl. oz.) – 47 mg
- Arizona Iced Tea, black, flavors (23 fl. oz.) – 43 mg
- Starbucks Teavana Royal English Breakfast—Brewed Tea or Tea Latte (grande, 16 fl. oz.) – 40 mg
- Snapple Lemon Tea (16 fl. oz.) ¬– 37 mg
- Green tea, brewed for 3 minutes (8 fl. oz.) – 35 mg
- Lipton Lemon Iced Tea (20 fl. oz.) – 25 mg
- Arizona Iced Tea, green, all flavors (23 fl. oz.) – 22 mg
- Lipton Decaffeinated Tea—black or green, brewed (8 fl. oz.) – 5 mg
- Herbal Tea, brewed (8 fl. oz.) – 0 mg
This information was obtained from company Web sites or direct inquiries, and is accurate as of February 2014.
This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly.