Do you like to drink your tea hot? If so, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggests that you think again. It could be leading you down the road to oesophageal cancer. |
Apparently, researchers at the University of Tehran studied the tea drinking habits of several hundred people diagnosed with oesophageal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), a form of cancer that kills half a million people around the world each year.
But why study their tea drinking habits?
The usual association with OSCC is tobacco and alcohol consumption, which explains the occurences in the West. But many other populations around the world have not picked up these habits yet they still suffer from this form of cancer. One theory doing the round was that it could be associated with tea drinking. Not with the drink itself, but with the temperature. Maybe tobacco and alcohol are contributors, it seems logical but the new study suggests the temperature of what you drink could be a more influential factor.
In Golestan Province of Iran, there is an unusually high OSCC occurence. Consumption of the two main western culprits is low and males and females are equally as likely to succumb to the cancer. So that is where the University of Tehran researchers stepped in.
They made a study of almost 900 people from the Golestan Province, about 1/3 were affected by OSCC. Almost all of the sample regularly drank black tea i.e. taking it without milk as opposed to the variety of tea. They discovered from this study that it was not the amount that mattered but the temperature and speed at which a cuppa was consumed. Where the tea drinker took their tea piping hot, above 70 degrees C, there appeared to be an eightfold increase in the incidence of oesophageal cancer. And if the tea was downed within a couple of minutes of being poured whilst it was still very hot, a fivefold increase was noted.
But the studies are really only a starting point, there could be other aspects to their diet that causes oesophageal cancer.
In the UK, most people take their tea with milk, thus cooling it down. Most Brits apparently prefer their tea to be at a temperature of between 50 and 60 degrees C. Cancer Research UK commented on the taking of tea as a cultural trait around the world, but stated that it isn't the tea itself that was the problem, just the temperature at which it was drunk. In a BMJ editorial, David Whiteman from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia said: "The mechanism through which heat promotes the development of tumours warrants further exploration and might be given renewed impetus on the basis of these findings."
So perhaps for those of us drinking gourmet quality teas without milk, there is a message here. Whatever the temperature at which the tea is mashed, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes before drinking and you will be doing yourself a favour. Since green tea is routinely prepared using water that is not boiling, you should switch to that - then you don't have to wait so long to get sipping!!
Research references: BMJ and BBC News
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