Tea and bone health: steps forward in translational nutrition
Author: Chwan-Li Shen, Ming-Chien Chyu, and Jia-Sheng Wang
Osteoporosis is a major health problem in the aging population worldwide. Cross-sectional and retrospective evidence indicates that tea consumption may be a promising approach in mitigating bone loss and in reducing risk of osteoporotic fractures among older adults. Tea polyphenols enhance osteoblastogenesis and suppress osteoclastogenesis in vitro. Animal studies reveal that intake of tea polyphenols have pronounced positive effects on bone as shown by higher bone mass and trabecular bone volume, number, and thickness and lower trabecular separation via increasing bone formation and inhibition of bone resorption, resulting in greater bone strength. These osteoprotective effects appear to be mediated through antioxidant or antiinflammatory pathways along with their downstream signaling mechanisms. A short-term clinical trial of green tea polyphenols has translated the findings from ovariectomized animals to postmenopausal osteopenic women through evaluation of bioavailability, safety, bone turnover markers, muscle strength, and quality of life. For future studies, preclinical animal studies to optimize the dose of tea polyphenols for maximum osteoprotective efficacy and a follow-up short-term dose-response trial in postmenopausal osteopenic women are necessary to inform the design of randomized controlled studies in at-risk populations. Advanced imaging technology should also contribute to determining the effective dose of tea polyphenols in achieving better bone mass, microarchitecture integrity, and bone strength, which are critical steps for translating the putative benefit of tea consumption in osteoporosis management into clinical practice and dietary guidelines.