Quick Study: Tea Helps People to Reduce Stress

The question: Sipping tea helps some people feel less stressed – or so they think. But when tea drinking is put to the test, do the results match the belief?

This study: Randomly assigned 75 men to drink four cups of fruit-flavored black tea or fake tea daily for six weeks. They abstained from all other tea, coffee and caffeinated beverages. Periodically, the men performed tasks intended to raise their stress levels, and their blood was monitored for stress indicators. During these challenges, blood pressure and heart rates increased about the same amounts in both groups, and the men gave comparable ratings to their feelings of stress.

About 50 minutes after the tasks, however, levels of the stress hormone cortisol (also called hydrocortisone) had fallen 47 percent in the tea drinkers, compared with a 27 percent drop in those who drank fake tea. Drinkers of the real tea indicated they felt more laid-back after recovering from the tasks than did the others.

Who may be affected by these findings: People who feel stressed, especially men.

Caveats: The study did not determine what components in tea contributed to the results. The men averaged 33 years old, were nonsmokers and generally healthy; whether the findings apply to other people remains unclear. The study was funded in part by Unilever, which includes tea among its products.

Find this study: Oct. 3 online issue of Psychopharmacology; abstract available at www.springerlink.com/content (under Publication Status click OnlineFirst; then search for “tea” in the Find area).

Learn more about stress: At http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/ and www.mayoclinic.com

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment’s effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

(By Linda Searing, The Washington Post, October 2006)