The facts speak for themselves: the average Brit consumes three cups of tea a day; after water, tea is the second most consumed drink in the country; and most days, approximately 40% of the nation's fluid intake will be, yes, tea.

But while many of us might think the main gain from all these cuppas is simply that it’s habitual/sociable/comforting/a chance to have a screen break, there are some much deeper health reasons why a regular tea round is a good idea.

Newly released Chinese research has suggested that regular tea drinkers have a 21% decreased risk of breast cancer, compared with people who don't drink it.

“It’s likely to be associated with the rich polyphenol content of both black and green teas,” says women’s health specialist and broadcaster Dr Catherine Hood.

"Polyphenols have been reported to have antioxidant activity and potential anti-tumour effect.”

That said, Cancer Research UK's senior health information officer Yinka Ebo, is keen to point out how the study might not be accurate after all. It relies on people remembering how much tea they drank, and isn’t clear about the type of tea or how long it was drunk for.

Time for tea

"While we British are known for our love of tea, this Chinese study doesn’t show that drinking tea will reduce the risk of breast cancer," she says.

"Most evidence from western countries like the UK have not found tea affects cancer risk. Although a few studies have shown that extracts from green tea may have some effect on cancer cells in the lab, this has not yet been backed up by research in people."

Whichever side of the cancer prevention argument is right though, there’s no doubting the other many health benefits of putting on the kettle. Dr Carrie Ruxton, from the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP), is here to guide you through them.

Observational studies suggest drinking tea is related to better cognitive function, because polyphenols may have a beneficial effect on blood flow.

Dr Ruxton says: "Researchers have looked at keeping your mental faculties for as long as possible as you get older, and they've found these faculties are better in tea drinkers and people with high polyphenol intakes.”

Tea is a natural source of fluoride, and provides about 70% of the mineral in UK diets. Fluoride helps prevent tooth enamel from breaking down, thus reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.


A University of Derby study last year suggested there may be too much fluoride in cheap teabags, but Dr Ruxton points out that the study estimated the average daily tea intake was one litre, while in the UK it's just over 500mg, "so the threat was exaggerated".

Tea is also naturally anti-bacterial, and less bacteria in the mouth means less tooth decay.

Good hydration improves the skin, and a study led by Dr Ruxton three years ago, where some subjects drank up to six mugs of tea a day and others drank water, found tea was just as hydrating as water.

High black tea consumption may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving blood vessel function, according to a Dutch study. Dr Tim Bond, from TAP, adds: "It confirms earlier studies showing the same effect and provides further evidence for the heart health benefits of black tea in amounts of at least three cups daily.”

Polyphenols from tea and other sources are thought to have a beneficial effect on “good” gut bacteria.


A 2013 Australian study found black tea could help stabilise blood pressure, and additional research has suggested tea could have an effect on blood-sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, thus lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Most people have milk in tea, and while some studies have said the addition of milk slows down the absorption of polyphenols, many others have said it has no effect.

Four cups of tea with milk provides 21% of an adult's daily calcium requirement, which is certainly beneficial for women who need calcium to strengthen their bones as they get older.