No one would argue about whether tea has health benefits, not least of which are the peaceful contentment of curling up with a hot cup of aromatic beverage and the option to refresh fluid levels with a tasty, no-calorie drink. Tea has been scientifically associated with health benefits such as suppressing tumor progression and decreasing inflammation.
But the fact is that while we know that exposure to substances in tea, coffee, cigarettes, and food can interact with our bodies, finding out exactly how these natural chemicals affect us still challenges scientists.
A recent study at Uppsala University examined the extent of methylation of DNA and then performed statistical analysis of these data with respect to consumption of tea and coffee. This methylation is a chemical process that can act like an on-off switch for our genes, a phenomenon referred to as 'epigenetic' changes because the gene itself is not changed but its function may change.
Interestingly, the study found no statistically significant relationship between the epigenetic effects of tea in men, or of coffee in men or women. But the data demonstrates that tea can cause epigenetic changes in women. The changes were found specfically in areas of the genes known to interact with how our bodies process the female hormone estradiol and with genes related to cancer.
Previous studies have shown that tea consumption reduces estrogen levels, which would have greater impacts to a woman's health. The authors also noted that the women studied drank greater amounts of tea than the men in the study, which may have made finding an association of epigenetic changes with tea in women easier.
The study authors note that they have not determined whether the epigenetic changes they observed may improve or harm health. But until we know more, why not bide the time with a perfect cup of tea.
Read the study in the journal Human Molecular Genetics