Will Black Tea Reduce Diabetes Risk?

Want to reduce your blood sugar levels?  Consider brewing a pot of black tea and indulging in a mug or two. Countries with high black tea consumption have significantly lower rates of Type 2 diabetes, according to research reported in Medical News Today.

Researchers analyzed data on fermented black tea consumption in 50 countries. The Irish drink more tea than any other nation, followed by the United Kingdom and then Turkey, according. Residents of Morocco, China, Brazil, and South Korea drank the least black tea.

"Black tea slows down the digestion of glucose when taken with a meal," says Cheryl Reitz, RD, CDE, of the Cleveland Clinic. "Even though black tea is not recommended as a replacement for diabetic medication, it may help reduce glucose absorption."

But that doesn't mean you should dress it up with lots of milk and sugar. "Try to drink the tea without sweeteners, if possible,"says Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "Adding sugar to tea negates the beneficial effect. If you want to splash in a little milk, that wouldn't count as a significant amount of carbohydrates." If you like your tea sweet, consider using an artificial sweetener, Reitz says.

But, she warns, adding milk to tea can decrease its beneficial health effects. Some research shows that tea drinking offers heart health benefits that range from lowering heart attack risk to lowering LDL cholesterol (or "bad" cholesterol.)

Teas may be black, green, white, or oolong (which is lighter than black but darker than green); the current study focused on black tea.  All varieties come from the same plant, but the method of processing and the level of oxidization combine to make them different. Black teas, for example, are oxidized for up to four hours. Within the family of black teas are numerous varieties, from orange pekoe (a high-quality tea grown in South Asia) to English Breakfast (a robust, full-flavored tea that is a blend of Ceylon, Kenyan, and Indian teas) to Earl Grey (a blend of Sri Lankan and Indian black teas that's perfumed with oil of bergamot, an acidic orange).

To brew perfect tea every time, always use cold water fresh from the tap. Preheat the teapot by pouring very hot water into it. Measure tea leaves into the preheated pot, using one tea bag or one to two teaspoons of loose tea for each cup of water. Black tea should steep for at least three minutes but no more than four or five minutes.

To make iced tea, prepare hot tea but use twice the quantity of leaves. Stir the tea, strain it, and pour it over ice. Optional garnishes that add flavor but not carbs? Lemon slices or fresh mint sprigs.


"Black tea could lower your diabetes risk." 9 November 2012. Medical News Today.

"The tea experience: home brewing." The Tea Association of the USA.

"Tea fact sheet." The Tea Association of the USA.


Alison Massey MS, RD, LDN, CDE reviewed this article.