Reaching for your daily cuppa? We’ve all heard a lot about tea’s high antioxidant content, but did you know that it may also help your bones?
Some research now suggests that drinking tea may help protect against osteoporosis, or delay its onset. It may also help to reduce the risk of experiencing hip fracture, which can have a major impact on the health, mobility and independence of older people.
Tea may protect Bone Density:
In a study conducted in Western Australia and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers measured the bone mineral density of 1027 women aged 70-85 and compared the test results of women who drank tea and those who didn't.
At the start of the four-year study, the average hip bone mineral density of those who drank tea was 2.8% higher than that of the non-tea drinkers. When the tests were repeated four years later, the results showed that the tea drinkers’ bone mineral density had declined by an average of 1.6%. In contrast the non-tea drinkers had experienced a 4% decline.
This study offers support to earlier research that looked at tea consumption and bone mineral density in 1256 older British women. For these women, tea drinking was associated with an approximately 5% increase in average bone mineral density.
What type of tea should I drink?
Regular black tea and green tea are responsible for these bone properties – the same effects have not been seen with herbal teas. At this stage, researchers haven’t determined how many cups of tea you need to drink each day to in order to experience the benefits for bone health – but do bear in mind that both green and black tea contain caffeine before you switch to nothing but tea all day!
How does it work?
Black and green teas are both made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. In Australia, most of us take our tea with milk, the calcium content of which may contribute to the improved bone density observed in tea drinkers.
However, the milk can’t entirely account for the bone health benefits, which are also observed in people who drink either black tea or green tea without milk, so it’s thought that some of the compounds in tea itself are responsible. In particular, tea contains a potent antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).
In laboratory studies, EGCG has demonstrated a number of effects on bone cells that may help to account for the reduced decline in bone mineral density experienced by people who drink tea.
What else does tea do?
Amongst other health benefits, green tea and EGCG may also help support cardiovascular health and weight loss. Green tea also has thermogenic properties, which may assist in burning calories and help maintain normal fat metabolism in healthy individuals.