Cognition

Brewing Longevity: Exploring the Tea vs. Coffee Debate

Tea vs coffee

For many, a steaming cup of coffee or tea serves as a daily ritual, providing a caffeine kick to jumpstart the day. But have you ever wondered which is better for you - tea or coffee?

Beyond the aromas and tastes that captivate our senses, recent research has delved deeper into the potential impacts of these beloved beverages on our health and longevity. Learn what research tells us and how many cups you should have daily.

Exploring Tea vs Coffee's Wellness Potentials

Both tea and coffee contain compounds that offer potential health benefits, contributing to their status as popular beverages in various cultures worldwide.

Here are some key components that contribute to their potential health-promoting properties:

1. Antioxidants:

Tea: Particularly green tea contains catechins, such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), known for their potent antioxidant properties. These antioxidants help neutralise harmful free radicals in the body, potentially reducing oxidative stress and inflammation (R).

Coffee: Rich in polyphenols and chlorogenic acids, coffee boasts antioxidant effects. These compounds may contribute to reducing inflammation and combating oxidative stress, which are linked to various chronic diseases (R).

2. Caffeine:

Tea: Contains caffeine, albeit in lower amounts compared to coffee. In addition to its stimulating effects, caffeine may enhance cognitive function, alertness, and even athletic performance in moderate doses. A cup of brewed black tea typically contains around 40-70 milligrams of caffeine, while green tea tends to have slightly less caffeine, roughly 20-45 milligrams per serving. Herbal teas, which are not derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, are generally caffeine-free (R).

Coffee: Known for its higher caffeine content, coffee is often consumed for its stimulating properties, aiding in increased wakefulness and focus. On average, 1 cup of brewed coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine (R).

3. Polyphenols and Other Bioactive Compounds:

Both beverages contain a variety of bioactive compounds apart from antioxidants, such as theobromine in tea and cafestol in coffee, which may contribute to potential health benefits (R).

4. Potential Health Effects:

Tea: Regular consumption of tea, especially green tea, has been associated with potential benefits like improved heart health, lowered risk of certain cancers, and possibly aiding in weight management (R).

Coffee: Studies suggest moderate coffee consumption might be linked to reduced risk of certain diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver conditions (R).

It's important to note that the health benefits of tea and coffee are often contingent on moderate consumption as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle. The effects can vary based on individual tolerance, brewing methods, and added ingredients like sugar or milk.

Tea, Coffee, and Health: A UK Biobank Odyssey

In a groundbreaking study spanning from 2006 to 2020, over 365,000 participants from the UK Biobank were part of a meticulous examination of the relationship between tea, coffee, and health outcomes.

The findings revealed a nonlinear link between the consumption of these beverages and the risks of stroke and dementia (R).

The Moderation Factor

Moderation seemed to be the key. The study suggested that consuming 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily, 3 to 5 cups of tea daily, or a combined intake of 4 to 6 cups daily was associated with the lowest hazard ratios for incident stroke and dementia.

Individuals within these consumption ranges exhibited a 32% lower risk of stroke and a 28% reduced risk of dementia compared to non-consumers (R).

Tea, Coffee, and the Synergy Between Them

But here's where it gets even more interesting—the synergy between tea and coffee.

Their combined consumption showcased a particularly promising impact, correlating with a decreased risk of specific types of strokes, vascular dementia, and poststroke dementia (R).

However, it's important to note the limitations acknowledged by the study, including self-reported intake and potential unmeasured factors.

Cross-Continental Insights: Caffeine and Physical Frailty

Now, let's take a leap across continents to another fascinating investigation.

This time, within a Chinese cohort observed over two decades, the focus was on caffeine-containing beverages—primarily coffee and tea—and their potential impact on physical frailty in later years (R).

Reducing Odds: Coffee and Tea's Protective Role

Participants who indulged in four or more cups of coffee daily displayed reduced odds of physical frailty compared to non-daily drinkers.

Similarly, habitual tea drinkers showed a decreased likelihood of physical frailty compared to rare consumers.

The dose-response relationship discovered between midlife caffeine intake and reduced frailty in later years indicates a potential protective role of caffeine-containing beverages against physical decline (R).

While shedding light on the potential benefits of tea, coffee, or their combination, these studies prompt further exploration. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and validating these observations across diverse populations remains crucial.

Conclusion

So, what does this mean for your daily cup? Well if you look at the research—2 to 3 cups of coffee daily, 3 to 5 cups of tea daily, or a combined intake of 4 to 6 cups daily.

While these findings offer tantalising insights into the potential health benefits of tea and coffee, they're not a carte blanche for overindulgence. Your preferences, tolerances, and overall lifestyle should guide your consumption.

Ultimately, savour your cup—be it tea or coffee—mindfully. Embrace moderation, cherish the aroma, and relish the moment. After all, brewing longevity might just start with a humble cup of your favourite brew.

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Written By Natasha Jordan

BHSc Nutritional Medicine, International health - University Of Queensland

Diploma In Dermal Science - AACDS

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