10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Black Tea
Aside from water, black tea is one of the most consumed beverages in the world.
It comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and is often blended with other plants for different flavors, such as Earl Grey, English breakfast or chai.
It’s stronger in flavor and contains more caffeine than other teas, but less caffeine than coffee.
Black tea also offers a variety of health benefits because it contains antioxidants and compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Here are 10 health benefits of black tea, all supported by science.
1. Has Antioxidant Properties
Antioxidants are known to provide a host of health benefits.
Consuming them can help remove free radicals and decrease cell damage in the body. This ultimately may help decrease the risk of chronic disease.
Polyphenols are a type of antioxidant found in certain foods and beverages, including black tea.
Groups of polyphenols, including catechins, theaflavins and thearubigins, are the main sources of antioxidants in black tea and may promote overall health.
In fact, one study in rats examined the role of theaflavins in black tea and the risk of diabetes, obesity and elevated cholesterol. Results showed that theaflavins reduced cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Another study examined the role of catechins from green tea extract on body weight. It found that those who consumed a bottle containing 690 mg of catechins from tea on a daily basis for 12 weeks showed a decrease in body fat.
While many supplements contain antioxidants, the best way to consume them is through food and beverages. In fact, some research has found that taking antioxidants in supplement form may harm your health.
Black tea contains a group of polyphenols that have antioxidant properties. Consuming antioxidants may help decrease the risk of chronic disease and improve your overall health.
2. May Boost Heart Health
Black tea contains another group of antioxidants called flavonoids, which benefit heart health.
Along with tea, flavonoids can be found in vegetables, fruits, red wine and dark chocolate.
Consuming them on a regular basis may help reduce many risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, elevated triglyceride levels and obesity.
One randomized controlled study found that drinking black tea for 12 weeks significantly decreased triglyceride values by 36%, reduced blood sugar levels by 18% and lowered the LDL/HDL plasma ratio by 17%.
Another study found that those who drank three cups of black tea per day had an 11% reduced risk of developing heart disease.
Adding black tea to your daily routine is an easy way to incorporate antioxidants into your diet and potentially reduce your risk of future health complications.
Black tea contains flavonoids, which are beneficial for heart health. Studies have found that regularly drinking black tea may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
3. May Lower “Bad” LDL Cholesterol
The body contains two lipoproteins that transport cholesterol throughout the body.
One is low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and the other is high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is considered the “bad” lipoprotein because it transports cholesterol to cells throughout the body. Meanwhile, HDL is considered the “good” lipoprotein because it transports cholesterol away from your cells and to the liver to be excreted.
When there is too much LDL in the body, it can build up in the arteries and cause waxy deposits called plaques. This can lead to problems like heart failure or stroke.
Fortunately, some studies have found that consuming tea may help reduce LDL cholesterol.
One randomized study found that drinking five servings of black tea per day reduced LDL cholesterol by 11% in individuals with slightly or mildly elevated cholesterol levels.
Another randomized three-month study in 47 individuals compared the effects of traditional Chinese black tea extract and a placebo on LDL levels.
Results showed a significant decrease in LDL levels in those who drank black tea, compared to the placebo, without any undesirable side effects. Researchers concluded that black tea helped improve cholesterol levels in individuals at risk for heart disease or obesity.
LDL and HDL are two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout the body. Too much LDL in the body can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have found that black tea may help reduce LDL levels.
4. May Improve Gut Health
Studies have found that the type of bacteria in your gut may play a significant role in your health.
That’s because the gut contains trillions of bacteria, as well as 70–80% of your immune system.
While some of the bacteria in your gut is beneficial for your health, some are not.
In fact, some studies have suggested that the type of bacteria in your gut may play an important role in reducing the risk of certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even cancer.
The polyphenols found in black tea may help maintain a healthy gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria and inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria, such as Salmonella.
In addition, black tea contains antimicrobial properties that kill off harmful substances and improve gut bacteria and immunity by helping repair the lining of the digestive tract.
However, further research is needed before a strong conclusion can be made regarding the role of black tea and immune function.
The gut houses trillions of bacteria and the majority of your immune system. Polyphenols and antimicrobial properties found in black tea may help improve gut health and immunity.
5. May Help Reduce Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects approximately 1 billion people worldwide.
It can increase your risk of heart and kidney failure, stroke, vision loss and heart attacks. Fortunately, changes in your diet and lifestyle can lower your blood pressure.
A randomized, controlled study looked at the role of black tea in decreasing blood pressure. Participants drank three cups of black tea daily over six months.
Results found that those who drank black tea had a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared to the placebo group.
However, research on the effects of black tea on blood pressure is mixed.
A meta-analysis of five different studies involving 343 participants looked at the impact of drinking black tea for four weeks on blood pressure.
Although results found some improvements in blood pressure, researchers concluded that the findings were not significant.
Drinking black tea on a daily basis, as well as incorporating other lifestyle modifications like stress management strategies, may benefit those with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure can cause many health complications. Drinking black tea on a regular basis may help decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure, but research is mixed.
6. May Help Reduce the Risk of Stroke
A stroke can occur when a blood vessel in the brain is either blocked or ruptures. It’s the second leading cause of death worldwide.
Fortunately, 80% of strokes are preventable. For example, managing your diet, physical activity, blood pressure and not smoking can help reduce the risk of stroke.
Interestingly, studies have found that drinking black tea may also help reduce the risk of stroke.
One study followed 74,961 people for over 10 years. It found that those who drank four or more cups of black tea per day had a 32% lower risk of stroke than those who did not drink tea.
Another study reviewed data from nine different studies including over 194,965 participants.
Researchers discovered that individuals who drank more than three cups of tea (either black or green tea) per day had a 21% decreased risk of stroke, compared to individuals who drank less than one cup of tea per day.
Stroke is the second leading cause of death globally. Fortunately, in many cases, it can be prevented. Studies have found that black tea may help reduce the risk of stroke.
7. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Elevated blood sugar levels may increase your risk of health complications, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and depression.
Consuming large amounts of sugar, particularly from sweetened beverages, has been shown to increase blood sugar values and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
When you consume sugar, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin to carry the sugar to the muscles to be used for energy. If you consume more sugar than your body needs, the excess sugar gets stored as fat.
Black tea is a great non-sweetened beverage that has been found to help enhance the use of insulin in the body.
One test-tube study looked at the insulin-enhancing properties of tea and its components. Results showed that black tea increased insulin activity more than 15-fold.
Researchers concluded that several compounds in tea were shown to improve insulin levels, specifically a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate.
Another study in mice compared the effects of black and green tea extract on blood sugar levels. Results found that they both lowered blood sugar and improved how the body metabolized sugar.
Insulin is a hormone that is secreted when you consume sugar. Black tea is a great non-sweetened beverage that can help improve the use of insulin and reduce blood sugar.
8. May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Over 100 different types of cancer exist, and some are not preventable.
Nevertheless, the polyphenols found in black tea may help prevent cancer cell survival.
One test-tube study analyzed the effects of the polyphenols in tea on cancer cells. It showed that black and green tea may play a role in regulating cancer cell growth and reducing new cell development.
Another study analyzed the effects of the polyphenols in black tea on breast cancer. It showed that black tea may help overcome the spread of hormone-dependent breast tumors.
Although black tea should not be considered an alternative treatment for cancer, some research has demonstrated black tea’s potential to help reduce cancer cell survival.
More research in humans is needed to more clearly determine the link between black tea and cancer cells.
Black tea contains polyphenols, which may help fight cancer cells in the body. Although consuming black tea will not cure cancer, it may help decrease cancer cell development.
9. May Improve Focus
Black tea contains caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine, which can improve alertness and focus.
L-theanine increases alpha activity in the brain, resulting in relaxation and better focus.
Studies have found that beverages containing L-theanine and caffeine have the greatest impact on focus due to the effects of L-theanine on the brain.
This may be why many individuals report more stable energy after drinking tea, compared to other caffeinated beverages like coffee.
Two randomized studies tested black tea’s effects on accuracy and alertness. In both studies, black tea significantly increased accuracy and self-reported alertness among participants, compared to a placebo.
This makes black tea a great beverage if you are looking to improve energy and focus without a lot of caffeine.
Black tea can help improve focus due to its content of caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine. This amino acid increases alpha activity in the brain, which can help improve focus and alertness.
10. Easy to Make
Not only is black tea good for you, it’s also simple to make.
To make black tea, first boil water. If using store-bought tea bags, simply add a tea bag to a mug and fill it with the hot water.
If using loose leaf tea, use 2–3 grams of tea leaves for every six ounces of water in a strainer.
Let the tea steep in the water for 3–5 minutes, depending on your taste preference. For a stronger tea, use more tea leaves and steep for a longer period of time.
After steeping, remove the tea leaves or tea bag from the water and enjoy.
Making black tea is simple and takes only a couple minutes. You can use either tea bags or loose leaves and adjust the taste to your preference.
The Bottom Line
Black tea is a great option if you are looking for a low-calorie, non-sweetened beverage with less caffeine than coffee or energy drinks.
It has a strong, unique flavor and contains plenty of antioxidants, which can provide several health benefits. These include improved cholesterol, better gut health and decreased blood pressure.
Best of all, it’s simple to make and can easily be found at many stores or online.
If you haven’t done so before, consider trying black tea so you can reap its numerous health benefits.
Written by Autumn Enloe, MS, RD, LD on May 16, 2018