Tea and flavonoids: where we are, where to go next
Author: Johanna T Dwyer and Julia Peterson
There is a need to evaluate the evidence about the health effects of tea flavonoids and to provide valid, specific, and actionable tea consumption information to consumers. Emerging evidence suggests that the flavonoids in tea may be associated with beneficial health outcomes, whereas the benefits and risks of tea extracts and supplements are less well known. The next steps in developing tea science should include a focus on the most promising leads, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, rather than pursuing smaller, more diffuse studies of many different health outcomes. Future tea research should also include the use of common reference standards, better characterization of intervention products, and application of batteries of biomarkers of intakes and outcomes across studies, which will allow a common body of evidence to be developed. Mechanistic studies should determine which tea bioactive constituents have effects, whether they act alone or in combination, and how they influence health. Clinical studies should use well-characterized test products, better descriptions of baseline diets, and validated biomarkers of intake and disease risk reduction. There should be more attention to careful safety monitoring and adverse event reporting. Epidemiologic investigations should be of sufficient size and duration to detect small effects, involve populations most likely to benefit, use more complete tea exposure assessment, and include both intermediary markers of risk as well as morbidity and mortality outcomes. The construction of a strong foundation of scientific evidence on tea and health outcomes is essential for developing more specific and actionable messages on tea for consumers.