New European research has found that tea could potentially help protect women against cancer by causing epigenetic changes in the body, chemical modifications that turn our genes off or on.
Carried out by Uppsala University, Sweden, in collaboration with research groups around Europe, the study looked at 3,096 male and female participants to see if coffee and tea consumption may lead to epigenetic changes.
It has already been suggested in previous research that other lifestyle factors, including diet, smoking, and exposure to chemicals can also lead to epigenetic changes.
The team found that tea consumption was associated with epigenetic changes, but only in women, not men, and many of the changes found were in genes involved in cancer and estrogen metabolism.
"Previous studies have shown that tea consumption reduces estrogen levels which highlights a potential difference between the biological response to tea in men and women. Women also drink higher amounts of tea compared to men, which increases our power to find association in women," explained lead researcher Weronica Ek.
Research that has found both coffee and tea consumption can reduce the risk of disease by suppressing tumor progression, decreasing inflammation and influencing estrogen metabolism, which may all be related to epigenetic changes.
Although the study did not find any epigenetic changes in coffee drinkers, many previous studies have also suggested that coffee can also reduce the risk of a variety of cancers, possibly due to the compounds found in the drink. Previous research has found that it's tea catechins that lead to epigenetic changes, however the team behind the new study noted that more research is now needed to find out more about how epigenetic changes affect our health.
The results can be found online published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.