A recent report from University of Glasgow in the U.K. reported that black tea may be deleterious to your prostate and may even increase your risk of prostate cancer.
They studied approximately 6,000 men between the ages of 21-75 for the past four decades and discovered that those who consumed more than seven cups of black tea daily were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer than those who drank only three, or less cups.
This report is just a little confusing to both doctors and the public as previous research had shown that drinking tea was found to lower the risk of cancer as well as diabetes and heart disease. Yet despite the new findings the investigators believe that drinking black tea may still have an overall positive effect on health that trumps any connection to prostate cancer.
An explanation: Perhaps heavy tea drinkers were more likely not to be overweight, have good cholesterol levels, and avoid alcohol. As a result, it could just be possible that the heavy tea drinkers tend to live to older ages which is exactly the time in a man’s life when prostate cancer is more common.
So what is tea?
Tea is one of the most ancient and popular beverages consumed around the world. Black tea accounts for about 75 percent of the world’s tea consumption. In the United States, United Kingdom (UK), and Europe, black tea is the most common tea beverage consumed. Black tea is produced when tealeaves are wilted, bruised, rolled, and fully oxidized. Dry heat or steam can be used to stop the oxidation process, and then the leaves are dried to prepare them for sale. Tea is brewed from dried leaves and buds (either in tea bags or loose), prepared from dry instant tea mixes, or sold as ready-to-drink iced teas. So-called herbal teas are not really teas but infusions of boiled water with dried fruits, herbs, and/or flowers.
What’s so healthy about tea?
Tea is composed of polyphenols, alkaloids (caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine), amino acids, carbohydrates, proteins, chlorophyll, volatile organic compounds (chemicals that readily produce vapors and contribute to the odor of tea).
The polyphenols, a large group of plant chemicals that includes the catechins, are thought to be responsible for the health benefits that have traditionally been attributed to tea.
The highest polyphenol concentration is found in brewed hot tea, less in instant preparations, and lower amounts in iced and ready-to-drink teas.
Teas and Cancer
Among their many biological activities, the predominant polyphenols in black teas have antioxidant activity. These chemicals have substantial free radical scavenging activity and may protect cells from DNA damage caused by free radicals. Tea polyphenols have also been shown to inhibit tumor cell proliferation and induce apoptosis in laboratory and animal studies. In other laboratory and animal studies, tea catechins have been shown to inhibit angiogenesis and tumor cell invasiveness. In addition, tea polyphenols may protect against damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) B radiation, and they may modulate immune system function. Furthermore, teas have been shown to help protect against tumor development. 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.
Tea has long been regarded as an aid to good health, and many believe it can help reduce the
risk of cancer. Although tea and/or tea polyphenols have been found in animal studies to inhibit tumorigenesis at different organ sites, including the skin, lung, oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, liver, pancreas, and mammary gland, the results of human studies—both epidemiologic and clinical studies—have been inconclusive.
The results of these studies have often been inconsistent, but some have linked tea consumption to reduced risks of cancers of the colon, breast, ovary, prostate, and lung. The inconsistent results may be due to variables such as differences in tea preparation and consumption, the types of tea studied (green, black, or both), the methods of tea production, the bioavailability of tea compounds, genetic variation in how people respond to tea consumption, the concomitant use of tobacco and alcohol, and other lifestyle factors that may influence a person’s risk of developing cancer, such as physical activity or weight status.
Two other clinical trials, both uncontrolled studies, investigated the use of green tea extracts to reduce prostate-specific antigen levels in men with prostate cancer and found no evidence of such a reduction.
What does the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have to say about tea? NCI is a research institution. It develops evidence-based research results for others to interpret. In general, therefore, NCI does not make recommendations about specific medical or dietary interventions. Moreover, as noted above, the evidence regarding the potential benefits of tea consumption in relation to cancer is inconclusive at present.
So what is my Bottom Line advice? Black tea may be beneficial to other organs and systems but the jury is out on the prostate gland. Therefore, heavy tea drinkers need to see their doctor once a year and have a PSA blood test and a digital rectal exam.