A hot cup of coffee can perk you up in the morning. A soothing cup of tea can help you relax after a stressful day. And the latest research about the health benefits of each might help you feel a little better about them, whichever beverage you drink.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer recently took coffee off its list of suspected carcinogens, and some research suggests it could help keep colon cancer from coming back after treatment. Other studies suggest drinking coffee might stave off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Various studies have pointed to tea drinkers having lower odds of skin, breast, and prostate cancers. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint the exact ways that happens. But tea, particularly green tea, is rich in compounds like antioxidants, which can limit cell damage and boost the immune system; and polyphenols, which have been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It also may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease through a polyphenol known as EGCG, which prevents the formation of plaques that are linked to that brain-damaging illness.
Is one better for you than the other?
Experts say that’s hard to say. That’s because it’s difficult to separate out their different ingredients, their role in your diet, and their effects on different body systems.
Researchers say it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how both drinks affect health. Both coffee and tea are “complex beverages” that contain a variety of ingredients. They include caffeine, polyphenols, and antioxidants — compounds researchers are studying for their potential cancer-fighting properties, says Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.
Some people have tried to isolate one element in tea or coffee that they think is the secret to one effect or another, “and then they realize that it doesn’t have the same effect.”
Another recent study, led by Charles Fuchs, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, found regular coffee drinking may help prevent colon cancer from coming back after treatment.
In his study of nearly 1,000 patients, Fuchs says, there was a “significant and linear” association between drinking coffee and lower risk of colon cancer returning in those who drank four or more cups a day. “The more coffee they drank, the lower risk of recurrence.” But the researchers aren’t clear on which element of the drink contributed to that result, and there didn’t seem to be any effect from drinking tea, he says.
“The quality of your diet is always the sum of all the parts.”
Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 23, 2016