Can the humble cup of tea really help fight cancer?

Incident rates of cancer are increasing with an aging population. The good news is that, with increased medical advancements and treatments, survival rates are also on the incline [1]. With so many myths surrounding cancer, it’s hard to know what information can be trusted, especially when many ‘alternative therapies’ and products for cancer treatment lack supporting or consistent evidence. This article concisely and independently reviews the potential benefits of tea consumption in relation to cancer.

Tea is known for its antioxidant properties but can these specifically help fight cancer?

Oxidation is the process by which the body combines oxygen with the human system. This process, while necessary for life, produces unstable chemicals called free radicals, which damage cells and DNA. While the body needs some free radicals to perform effectively, too many can cause significant damage and result in problems such as heart and liver disease and certain cancers (e.g. bowel, esophageal, oral and stomach cancers) [2]. Tea, especially green tea, contains antioxidant properties, which aid the body in searching for and neutralising free radicals, helping to prevent and reduce the damage caused by oxidation [3].

Green tea can be an acquired taste.

Black tea also has antioxidant activity, although this is not as effective in scavenging free radicals as the antioxidants found in green tea [3].

It’s important to note that “although many of the potential beneficial effects of tea have been attributed to the strong antioxidant activity of tea polyphenols, the precise mechanism by which tea might help prevent cancer has not been established [3].”

Serving suggestions.

Fresh fruit, such as apples, oranges or strawberries, is a great addition to tea, particularly chilled green tea. A natural sweetener like honey also tastes great in hot or iced tea (not suitable for Type 2 diabetics). The addition of mint or rosemary also enhances flavour, especially if prepared the day before.

References:

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2016).Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality (ACIM) books: breast cancer. Canberra: AIHW. [Accessed January 2017].
  2. Better Health. (2012). Antioxidants. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/antioxidants. [Accessed January 2017].
  3. National Cancer Institute. (2010). Tea and Cancer Prevention. [online] Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/tea-fact-sheet#q3. [Accessed January 2017].

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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