For centuries, Eastern medicine has used the healing power of teas to treat various ailments. Today, Western science is finally starting to acknowledge that tea can improve your physical and mental health.
Across the world, tea has become more widely used to boost your health.
One of the boosts tea can give you is to strengthen your bones. New studies show that tea can make strong bones, fighting the occurrence of osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Before you can look into the impact of tea on osteoporosis and bone health, it’s important to understand a few things about bones. Bone has a honeycomb-like structure, with holes throughout the bone. Healthy bones have smaller holes, which is consistent with a higher bone density. Having smaller holes makes the bones more structurally sound.
Breaking a bone with small or few holes is difficult, and is the reason why you don’t break a bone every time you trip over something. However, some people suffer from osteoporosis, which makes the holes larger.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when your body either loses bone or stops producing bone (or, a combination of both). This results in the poor structure of weak bones that break easily.
With severe osteoporosis, you may be at risk for a broken bone doing something as simple and common as sneezing. Falling and bumping into things poses a great risk to someone with the disease.
Sadly, osteoporosis is quite common throughout the world. Approximately 54 million Americans have low bone density. About one in every two women and one in every four men 50 years of age or older will experience a bone break because of osteoporosis.
And a broken bone isn’t a minor injury. While a normal broken bone can be difficult to heal, a broken bone that resulted from osteoporosis is even harder to heal. Often, the breaks happen in the hip, wrist, or spine. Any one of those breaks can be debilitating and require limited mobility.
The pain may be constant and may never fully disappear. Some seniors never recover and spend the rest of their life in long-term care facilities.
Spinal breaks, even after they are healed, cause even more problems. They can cause someone to be hunched or stooped, and they may result in someone being shorter than they were before the break. But the effects can be even worse. About 20% of the seniors who break their hips die due to complications from the break or from the surgery to repair the break. This usually happens within a year of the broken bone.
Is There Research Behind Tea Helping Your Bones?
A study performed in England showed that tea can both build up and strengthen your bones. This is particularly useful in fighting osteoporosis, a disease that results in brittle and easily broken bones. The strengthening effect is especially noticeable in women who would otherwise be prone to osteoporosis.
If you think about it, it doesn’t seem logical that tea would be the way to make your bones stronger. Several studies have shown that drinking caffeine increases a woman’s risk of getting osteoporosis and increases their chances of breaking their hip bones. And because tea contains caffeine, tea must be bad for bones, right?
Wrong. There have been at least two studies (both of which were done in Europe) that show drinking tea actually prevents broken hips. Specifically, the most recent study demonstrates that tea drinking can vastly improve bone density.
The study was done on more than 1,200 women between the ages of 65 and 76 in Cambridge, and you can find all of the results in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Each woman in the study finished a questionnaire that asked questions about daily lifestyle habits, as well as personal health.
It asked questions relating to their tea consumption, coffee consumption, smoking, and physical activity. Other questions included alcohol consumption, whether the coffee was caffeinated/non-caffeinated or ground/instant, whether they underwent hormone replacement therapy, and whether milk was added.
Every woman underwent a bone density measurement that showed how strong their spine and hip bones were. Because those are generally the most common areas for breaks among the older population, they were selected as the determining factor for this study.
The research had surprising results. Women of an older age who drank tea had a higher bone mineral density than those who didn’t drink it. And the results weren’t difficult to interpret. Women who drank tea had a bone density that was significantly higher than those who didn’t, regardless of other lifestyle habits.
Even in cases where the subject was a smoker, drank coffee, or participated in other behaviors that might negatively effect their bone density, tea drinking boosted their bone density.
Not surprisingly, women who added milk to their tea had bone densities that were even greater than those who didn’t. The effect was seen mostly in the hip.
Why Does It Work?
The research has only started to delve into the correlation between strong bones and tea drinking. However, there are a few theories that could explain tea’s ability to fight osteoporosis.
One researcher believes that the ingredients in tea mimic estrogen, the female hormone. Estrogen is believed to be responsible for keeping bone mineral density stable in women after menopause.
By mimicking the hormone, tea could have the same result on your body. Because estrogen has less of a role in maintaining the bone density of women pre-menopause, this could explain why younger women don’t seem to see as much of an impact from drinking tea as older women do. Younger women don’t show as much of an improvement in density as older ones.
What Type Of Tea Is Good For Bones?
Although there needs to be more specific research to show which type of teas are best for bone density, it’s safe to say that green tea and black tea can be linked to stronger bones. But if you’re interested in trying some teas that haven’t undergone the rigors of scientific testing, you may find a tea that has even greater effects.
Here are a few options that are worth trying. In addition to improving your bone density, they may have other positive effects on your health.
1. Hibiscus Tea
Hibiscus tea is an herbal tea made from the hibiscus plant. The most common form of hibiscus tea is ruby-red, made from the plant’s flower. The flower contains antioxidants that are believed to help build up bones, regardless of your age. What’s more, the antioxidants fight inflammation and help your body’s cells communicate, both of which are results that can improve the way your body functions.
As an added bonus, hibiscus may lower your blood pressure. One study (done by the Journal of Human Hypertension) showed that two cups of the tea a day improved the blood pressure of patients with diabetes and hypertension.
Finally, many people use hibiscus as a digestive aid. It has been known to relax smooth muscles, which are involved in digestion.
A tea from South Africa, Rooibos has a variety of antioxidants and minerals that can have positive effects on your body.
As far as minerals go, this tea is loaded. It contains Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Manganese, and Iron. One of the tea’s antioxidants fights an enzyme that is linked to heart disease, and that same antioxidant improves your circulation.
Another antioxidant reduces your level of cortisol, which can prevent bone damage due to stress. It may also improve the health of your respiratory system. Like other teas, Rooibos may improve your bone density. The other beneficial effects of it are just icing on the cake.
3. Green Tea
Green tea was included in some of the research that linked bone density and tea drinking. But that’s not the only reason that you should try it. There are three components of the tea that can improve your bones.
One of them promotes bone growth by giving a boost to the enzyme in charge. Another component stops the cells that tear down bones.
In addition to all of that, green tea is also great for your cardiovascular health. Additionally, it fights dementia and helps reduce the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
4. White Tea
This type of tea comes from the buds on the plant camellia Sinensis. It contains a lot of antioxidants, which are soldiers in the fight against osteoporosis. They prevent oxidative damages from happening to your bones, which often occurs as you age. As a result, the tea can rejuvenate your bones and fight aging.
Of course, there are other benefits to white tea. It’s linked to lowering blood pressure in frequent white tea drinkers and may prevent cancer. The antioxidants in the tea may stop the growth of cancer cells. It also contains antioxidants that act as anti-bacterial agents, fighting off illness and keeping you healthy.
You probably know of chamomile because of its common use as a sleep aid. It’s believed to have calming effects because of one of its antioxidants.
The same antioxidant that helps to calm you also protects your bones from cortisol, the stress hormone. Other positive effects of the tea include reducing blood pressure, calming muscle spasms, and boosting your immune system.
While research continues in determining how drinking tea affects bone density, you don't need to read tea leaves to see that tea can be your secret ingredient to strong bones.