The health benefits of tea and coffee

There are so many health stories about whether your morning cuppa is good or bad for you, we round up the health pros and cons of drinking tea and coffee!

(Image credit: Harriet Bailey / EyeEm/Getty Images)

With each person drinking on average 25 cups of tea and coffee a week, and, as a whole, almost 10 million cuppas every hour, it's fair to say that tea and coffee are here to stay. As well as being a relaxing pastime, drinking tea and coffee also has some surprising health benefits.

A cuppa is one of life's small pleasures, but there has always been some confusion about whether tea and coffee are good for you. With various studies claiming hot drinks can help you to lose weight (and keep it off!), protect against heart attacks, strokes and even Alzheimer's, we're keen to get to the bottom of the health benefits of tea and coffee!

Reduce risk of Alzheimer's and dementia

Scientists have found a potential link between drinking coffee and tea and combating degenerative brain diseases.

Caffeinated drinks contain caffeic acid, which reduces the accumulation of rogue proteins which clump together and destroy memory.

It can also reduce memory nerve cells dying, and maintains the levels of a certain signalling chemical.

Caffeic acid is found in coffee amongst other food and drink, and is one of the polyphenol compounds that are commonly found in the Mediterranean diet, which is known for it's health benefits.

One review of previous studies outlined that regular and moderate consumption of three to five coffees per day could slash the chance of dementia by up to 27%.

Dr Iva Holmerova, vice chairperson of Alzheimer Europe, has said: 'The role of nutrition is an emerging area in Alzheimer's research and the potential benefits of drinking coffee, on both a nutritional and a social level, are increasingly being developed.'

Weight loss

Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in suggested that coffee could be the answer to keeping weight off once you've lost it. Participants who consumed two to four cups of coffee per day were far more successful when it came to staying trim than their decaff equivalents.

A study from the Anglia Ruskin University also looked at the impact of decaffeinated green tea capsules on body fat.

Researchers found that body fat reduced by 1.63% in those study participants who took the 571mg capsule each day for four weeks compared to the placebo group.

Dr Roberts, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Sciences at Anglia Ruskin University, who led that study said: 'It is known that green tea as a drink can have numerous health benefits as it contains a relatively high amount of an ingredient called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). However, to get the dosage required may require closer to 6 or 7 cups of green tea a day.  The 571mg capsules tested contained a daily EGCG dose of 400mg. In essence, our study showed that the use of a green tea extract could potentially help people to lose weight if combined with exercise.  However, we recognise that a larger scale study is now required.'

In recent years there's also been a huge rise in teas created specifically to aid the diet process, with popular brands including Slendertoxtea and Bootea (also known as 'teatoxes'). If a teatox isn't for you, it's worth knowing how many calories are in your normal tea and coffee choices, as it's so easy to forget that lots of hot drinks are crammed full of calories. Cutting out a latte or creamy mocha a day will help you keep trim.

Calories in tea and coffee

  • Tea with no milk - 0 calories
  • Mug of tea or coffee with skimmed milk - 11 calories
  • Mug of tea or coffee with semi-skimmed milk - 14 calories
  • Mug of tea or coffee with semi-skimmed milk and one sugar - 41 calories
  • Mug of tea or coffee with semi-skimmed milk and two sugars - 68 calories
  • Cappuccino - 91 calories
  • Caffe latte - 148 calories
  • Caffe mocha - 204 calories
  • Hot chocolate with cream - 418 calories

A longer life

One study showed that drinking tea can help fight heart disease, improve your brain power, lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes and make you feel more alert and cheerful!

Dr Carrie Ruxton - a dietician who conducted a review of 47 published studies -  found that the caffeine in tea (and coffee) has antioxidants which give these health benefits. According to this study, you'll get these benefits if you drink up to eight cups of tea (or four cups of coffee) per day.

Boosts your concentration

The levels of caffeine in coffee make you more alert and actually improve your concentration - this is a really important thing to remember if you feel drowsy when you're driving.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) recommends - amongst other measures - that drivers drink one or two cups of strong coffee or other high caffeine drinks if they start to feel sleepy behind the wheel.

This is after they have found a safe place to stop.

A healthier heart

A study by Greek scientists has shown that a cup of green tea takes just 30 minutes to widen an artery that runs from the shoulder to the elbow and this means that the risk of blood clots is reduced substantially. This is a good indicator of how blood flows around the body and especially to and from the heart.

Heart and circulatory disease cause nearly 160,000 deaths in the UK each year, according to figures from the British Heart Foundation.

Tea contains antioxidants called flavonoids and these have been shown to slow down the effects and development of heart disease. So a couple of cups a day could help keep your ticker beating for longer.

Stronger teeth

Tooth decay and gum disease are a big problem in the UK, so the news that tea - particularly green tea - can help prevent that is great news. Tea benefits your teeth in three ways:

1. The fluoride that occurs naturally in tea strengthens the enamel in your teeth. 2. The flavonoids protect your teeth against the build-up of bacteria around the root of teeth and stop decay. 3. It's also thought that the tannin in tea could help to prevent tooth decay and as a result the development of caries (holes in the teeth).

Fights cancer

Cancer kills more than 160,000 people in the UK every year, according to figures from Cancer Research UK.

Certain studies have shown that drinking tea every day can play a role in warding off certain types of cancer.

- A study by Penn State University showed the main antioxidant in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), helped kill cancer cells through the destruction of the cells’ mitochondria (the part that produces around 90% of the chemical energy that cells need to survive).

- A clinical trial conducted by the renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found that an extract of green tea had potentially beneficial effects for patients with low toxicity in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

'The benefits we have seen in most CLL patients who use the chemical suggest that it has modest clinical activity and may be useful for stabilizing this form of leukemia, potentially slowing it down,' said Tait Shanafelt, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and lead author of the study.

Reduce stress

A study by City University London found that drinking a cup of tea after a stressful experience can reduce stress by 25% - this is because tea has a calming effect and it's a familiar routine.

Anna Bailey
Editor in Chief

Anna Bailey has been the editor of Goodto since 2018. Before joining the team she was Features Editor at MSN UK, where she oversaw Family Health and Days Out. Previously, she was Digital Lifestyle Editor for the broadcaster UKTV, and Lifestyle Editor for Anna studied Multi-Media Journalism at Bournemouth University and went on to gain her NCTJ and NCE  journalism qualifications. Anna is responsible for driving the direction and editorial strategy of Goodto. A mum and experienced baby product tester, she is passionate about providing safe, trustworthy, and relatable advice for families of all kinds.