Study: Tea Causes Epigenetic Changes in Women

A recent study conducted by researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden along with other European research groups, revealed  tea consumption causes epigenetic changes in women. These changes were related to cancer and to the estrogen hormone. Human Molecular Genetics published the researchers’ conclusions, titled “Tea and Coffee consumption in relation to DNA methylation in four European cohorts.”

Epigenetic changes are those that alter gene expression that can be passed down to a subsequent generation. “Lifestyle factors, such as food choices and exposure to chemicals, can alter DNA methylation and lead to changes in gene activity,” states the study’s abstract. These epigenetic changes, however, do not alter the DNA sequence.

During the study, researchers measured DNA methylation from whole blood at 421,695 CpG sites from throughout each genome and evaluated findings pertaining to women and to men, according to the study’s abstract. “DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism that occurs by the addition of a methyl (CH3) group to DNA, thereby often modifying the function of the genes,” according to What is Epigenetics.

Former studies showed both tea and coffee can impact disease risk in human beings by stifling tumor development, reducing inflammation and affecting estrogen metabolism.

This recent study showed that tea causes epigenetic changes in women, but not in men. The changes were in genes related to estrogen metabolism and cancer. The study, however, did not find epigenetic changes in people who drank coffee. “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,” said Weronica Ek, lead researcher of the study, from the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology in a press release from Upsala University.

However, this particular study did not conclusively show whether drinking tea is healthy. Further research is required to delve into the specific health effects of the epigenetic changes.