Can drinking tea help mitigate against the effects of stress?

Probably all of us know that life events and ‘stress’ can change our mood, but there’s less acknowledgement, I think, that what we can have impact here too. One example relates to blood sugar imbalance: if blood sugar levels plummet it can switch on the body’s stress response, which in turn can induce feelings of tension and/or anxiety. Of course, it’s always possible that foodstuffs may have the opposite effect, and help regain or retain a state of calm.

One foodstuff that, anecdotally, is reputed to do this is tea. Interestingly, a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [1] found that Japanese adults drinking at least 5 cups of green tea a day were at a 20 per reduced risk of ‘psychological distress’, compared to those consuming 1 cup a day or less. Epidemiological studies of this nature do not prove that green tea has an anti-stress effect, just that green-tea drinking is associated with improved mental well-being.

However, there is at least some evidence which suggests that tea can have genuine mood-enhancing effects.

In a study published in 2007, the effects of tea on the stress response was tested in a group of men [2]. The study subjects were all taken off caffeinated beverages, and put on to a caffeinated ‘placebo’ drink for a period of 4 weeks. After this, the men were put through a challenging task, measures of the stress response were made before, during and after the task. After this, men were given either tea or placebo-drink to consume for a period of 6 weeks, at which point their responses to stress were re-checked.

Some measures, including heart rate and blood pressure, were not different between the two groups. However, some were.

Compared to those drinking the placebo drink, tea-drinkers had reduced ‘platelet activation’ (platelet activation makes the blood more likely to clot and is activated during the stress reponse).

Tea drinkers also had lower cortisol levels after the challenging task (cortisol is a major hormone secreted in response to stress).

And finally, tea-drinkers also felt more relaxed after completing the challenging task.

These findings suggest that tea-drinking may have at least some capacity to mitigate against the negative effects of stress.

References:

1. Hozawa A, et al. Green tea consumption is associated with lower psychological distress in a general population: the Ohsaki Cohort 2006 Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90(5):1390-6

2. Steptoe A, et al. The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2007;190(1):81-9

6 Responses to Can drinking tea help mitigate against the effects of stress?

  1. Mario 3 November 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    Green tea is high in fluoride, and fluoride is a know substance that affects thyroid. No surprise that hashimoto is high in Japan!

  2. chainey 3 November 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    The earlier part, about the Japanese, refers to green tea, but the study doesn’t specify. I’ve never had green tea – is it similar to black tea? (which the study participants would presumably have been taking if they weren’t in Asia).

  3. chainey 3 November 2009 at 9:58 pm #

    P.S. I remember reading about some study a while ago that ascribed great benefits to black tea – but only taken without milk. With milk and/or sugar the benefits disappeared.

  4. Alison 6 November 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    I drink green tea everyday but am also hypothyroid. I knew about fluoride having a dentrimental effect on the thyroid but hadn’t realised there was a problem with green tea.

    Obviously one has to be careful about added fluoride in water – something I am very much against for lots of reasons – but is there so much in the actual green tea that I should stop drinking that or at least reduce my consumption?

  5. Matthew 3 March 2010 at 1:04 am #

    From the research I have done I find that this stress response is largely due to L-theanine found in teas (especially that of white and green teas since they are less processed). L-theanine has been found to calm down and focus the mind, as well as being linked to decreased illness. I am an avid tea drinker and I find it helps in four main ways: (1) Benefits mentioned with L-theanine, (2) helps the body fight bacterial infections, (3) helps the body fight viral infections (especially white teas), and (4) It is a nice hot drink that is soothing for my throat.

    I also plan on incorporating a dose of Vitamin D into my daily life after reading your articles. I live in Canada and I don’t get exposed to a lot of sunlight everyday.

    I really enjoy your articles, keep writing!

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