This is Why Your Friendly Bacteria Really Love a Cuppa!

New research reveals tea drinking could be good for our gut health

Treating your loved ones to a cup of tea has always been a mainstay of British society but now a new study reports that your ‘friendly’ gut bacteria could also be grateful.

Tea is a rich source of plant polyphenols and, alongside onions and apples, is one of the largest sources of these in the British diet. There are multiple types of polyphenols in tea that could potentially interact with the gut microbiome, including theaflavins and thearubigins in black tea and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in green tea.

As tea polyphenols are not absorbed in the upper part of the digestive tract, they interact with gut bacteria living in the large intestine. Healthier strains of gut bacteria feed on the polyphenols and can change them into other compounds which the body can absorb and use. It’s these so-called ‘metabolites’ that have the potential to deliver clinical benefits.

These benefits include reducing the risk of obesity, which several studies have linked to having gut bacteria levels that are out of balance.

The study was commissioned by the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) and is published in Nutrients Journal, combining the results from 24 studies which studied the impact of different teas on gut health. The results showed clear differences in the types of bacteria thriving in the gut after regular tea drinking, with the balance changed towards healthier strains and away from those linked with infection and even obesity.

Natural health chemist, co-author and adviser from TAP, Dr Tim Bond explains: “We are now much more aware that our gut bacteria have a massive impact on health including influencing whether we develop obesity, diabetes or bowel diseases. Everyone knows that fibre or probiotics can help change gut bacteria towards more favourable strains so it was a pleasant surprise to discover through this research that a simple cup of tea can also be effective.

Co-author, nutritionist and adviser to the TAP, Dr Emma Derbyshire explains: “A number of studies have shown that tea drinking could be associated with weight loss and it now seems plausible that the effects could, in part, be due to changes in gut bacteria.”

Dr Tim Bond adds: “Studies show that obese people have low levels of Bacteriodetes and high levels Firmicutes which put the two types of bacteria out of balance. Tea drinking seems to help reverse this problem.

“Given that so many people drink tea, compared with the small number taking specialist gut health products like probiotics, it’s great to know that simply boosting your tea drinking to 4-5 cups a day is enough to rebalance your gut bacteria and potentially support health”.

Meghan Taylor

Meghan Taylor is an emerging freelance writer focusing on startups, freelance life and anything in between. She is an avid reader and coffee drinker, and hopes to see her own novel on display in a bookshop one day.