Coffee and Tea: Benefits for Nearly Everyone?

John Mamana, M.D.Most of us look forward to a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea to start the day. Some of us look forward to a mid-day tea or an espresso after dinner. So there is no question that these two hot beverages turn up at some point during most American’s day. Aside from the caffeine perk, over the years, the reputation for both coffee and tea has seesawed between healthy and unhealthy. In fact, in the 18 century, King Gustaf III of Sweden decided to study the issue. He commuted the death sentence of identical twins with the condition that one drink tea and the other drink coffee three times a day. The tea-drinker twin died first at age 83. Although this study isn’t too terribly scientific by today’s standard, it’s now well known that antioxidants found in both coffee and tea can prevent inflammation of the blood vessels, which are linked to reduced risk for cancer. Coffee provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the average person’s diet, however, both green and black tea trump coffee for protection against cancer, heart disease, and possibly osteoporosis.

Today, more scientifically based observational studies have linked regular coffee consumption with many health benefits. These include reduced risks of type 2 diabetes because the magnesium may help your body regulate sugar metabolism; other substances in coffee stimulate the gallbladder and subsequently prevent the crystallization of bile into stones; and caffeine may protect your brain from Parkinson’s disease by increasing the supply of dopamine and may temporarily sharpen mental acuity.

Tea offers many similar benefits, including a higher bone density due to the fluoride and estrogen like substances in tea; an estimated 11 percent lower incidence of heart attack by those who drank three cups of tea a day (vs. non tea drinkers); and even cancer fighting antioxidant polyphenols that may protect the stomach, skin, prostate, ovaries and breast. Plus, tea’s high antioxidant capacity may protect your heart by relaxing blood vessels, inhibiting clots, and reducing cholesterol levels. More information can be found at
Tea 101: Which tea offers the most health benefits?

As with most everything – there can be too much of a good thing. Some research shows that the high caffeine content of both coffee and tea may raise blood pressure, cause anxiety, heartburn and a rapid heartbeat. So what’s right for you? Most studies recommend moderate consumption of coffee vs. no limits on tea. Of course, this doesn’t include any cream, sugar or other additives you may use. If you aren’t sure, check with your doctor to see which is most beneficial.

John Mamana, M.D.

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