What are the Effects of Tea on Diabetes?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The effects of tea on diabetes have been studied extensively around the world. Some evidence suggests that tea consumption may reduce the risks of developing diabetes and help control diabetes in patients who already have this condition. People with diabetes interested in the effects of tea on the disease can ask their doctors about the latest research and whether tea would be an appropriate addition to their treatment plan.

Loose leaf tea.
Loose leaf tea.

It is important to be aware of two issues when looking at studies involving tea and health. The first is that they focus on Camellia sinensis, not herbal tisanes sometimes known as “teas.” Secondly, there are many different kinds of tea, including white, green, oolong, and black tea. Although they originate from the same plant, the various types of teas have different chemical profiles because of different processing methods.

A cup of tea.
A cup of tea.

It appears that the effects of green, oolong, and black tea on diabetes are all beneficial. People with diabetes cannot rely on tea alone for management, but drinking tea can keep blood sugar levels lower, limiting damage caused by high blood sugar. Green tea seems to preserve tissue in the body that can produce insulin, and may reduce the size of insulin dosages. In addition, drinking tea lowers blood pressure and can contribute to a reduction in diabetes complications like eye damage and injuries to the blood vessels.

Green tea.
Green tea.

People who do not have diabetes may experience a reduction in risk if they drink tea regularly. Many different factors are involved in the development of diabetes, and drinking tea on its own will not eliminate the chances of contracting this disease. People also need to control their weight, exercise, and eat a balanced and healthy diet. Many studies on the effects of tea on diabetes have focused on populations in China, Taiwan, and Japan, where many people are thin and the diet can vary considerably from that consumed in other areas of the world. The reduction of diabetes risk in these populations thus cannot be entirely attributed to tea.

Some studies suggest that tea consumption may help lower blood sugar levels.
Some studies suggest that tea consumption may help lower blood sugar levels.

The effects of tea on diabetes involve complex interactions between the chemical compounds in tea. Depending on how tea is handled and brewed, individual cups may be more or less effective as part of a plan for managing or preventing diabetes. Additives like sugar and cream will also have an impact on how the tea behaves in the body; someone drinking heavily sweetened tea, for example, will respond differently than a person who takes tea without sugar.

People who do not have diabetes may experience a reduced risk for the disease if they routinely drink tea.
People who do not have diabetes may experience a reduced risk for the disease if they routinely drink tea.
Many studies examining the effects of tea on diabetes have focused on populations in Asia that have a low incidence of diabetes.
Many studies examining the effects of tea on diabetes have focused on populations in Asia that have a low incidence of diabetes.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

ysmina

@ankara-- I'm not an expert but as far as I know, tea is beneficial for diabetes because of the caffeine content. I remember reading about how caffeine triggers insulin production in the body. I'm not sure if this is proven but if it is, tea is beneficial only for type 2 diabetics because type 1 diabetics' pancreas do not produce insulin. Again, if this is true, anything with caffeine should have a similar effect on blood sugar. So you could also drink coffee.

As for which type of tea is best, I think they're all good, but black tea does have more caffeine. The downside to drinking tea for diabetes is that caffeine has a diuretic effect. So it will make you more thirsty. Diabetes already causes thirst, so too much tea will make this symptom much more severe. At least, it does with me.

bluedolphin

I don't understand how tea can reduce blood sugar. Is it because of the antioxidants in tea? Which type of tea is best for diabetes -- black or green? How many cups should I drink for benefits?

ddljohn

I have type two diabetes and I love tea. I drink it everyday, particularly when my blood sugar is higher than normal. I think the studies are correct, drinking tea without sugar helps reduce blood sugar. I think it helps with dry mouth too. My diabetes gives me dry mouth and tea seems to decrease this diabetes symptom.

I drink my tea without sugar and milk. There have been times when I had it with milk and I think it had the same effect. I never have it with sugar though. Tea with sugar will certainly have the opposite effect and increase my blood sugar.

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