Tea is equal to water when it comes to hydration

Posted on: 27 July 2010 by Mark O'haire

Drinking tea is just as good as water when it comes to keeping the body hydrated, an important new clinical study commissioned by the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP), has found.

Four mugs of tea a day were found to be just as hydrating as water – with no negative effects.

It’s a common misconception that drinking caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee or cola, can dehydrate the body, depriving it of vital water necessary for good mental and physical health. It is thought that caffeine in drinks increases the frequency of urination, causing the body to lose too much water. While studies on caffeine pills have produced inconsistent results due to differences in caffeine levels, the small amount of research on caffeinated drinks has found no significant impact on hydration levels.

Until now, there has been only one study of tea drinking and hydration which was carried out at Everest Base Camp to assess the impact of four mugs of regular tea – also known as black tea – on hydration levels by measuring recognised markers in blood and urine.

In the new UK study, a total of 21 volunteers drank either four mugs of tea with milk (240ml) over a 12-hour period – equivalent to just under one litre of tea in total – or a similar amount of plain, warm water. Four cups of tea was chosen because this is slightly above the average daily tea intake in the UK. The all-male volunteer group had an average age of 36 years and none had habitually high caffeine intakes. The study was a cross-over trial so each male was exposed to both tea and water, although on separate days. A controlled diet was given during the test days and vigorous exercise, caffeinated products and alcohol were banned the day before each test.

Blood samples were taken before drink consumption and then at 1, 2, 4, 8 and 12 hours during the test days to check levels of electrolytes, total protein, urea, creatinine and osmolality – all recognised markers of body hydration. Urine was collected over 24 hours to gauge total volume and to check levels of creatinine, osmolality and electrolyte concentration – again common markers of hydration.

Following detailed analysis by a qualified statistician, no significant differences were found between the tea and water conditions. Drinking four mugs of tea over one day was found to be equally hydrating to drinking the same level of water. The researchers concluded that tea can make a valid contribution to daily fluid requirements.

Dr Carrie Ruxton, author of the clinical study notes said: “Drinking moderate amounts of tea – four mugs a day – offered the same excellent hydration qualities as plain water. There were no statistical differences between regular tea and water when a wide range of blood and urine markers for hydration were tested among the volunteers. In addition, urine volume was similar after tea or water, confirming that we do not urinate more after drinking tea.

“This study shows that tea is an excellent way to keep hydration levels topped up throughout the day. Not only is a mug of tea refreshing and delicious, it can be an important part of maintaining proper hydration.”

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