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The Gentle Brew: Should I drink my tea as hot as I can stand it?

Studies suggest that drinking hot beverages may be linked to esophageal cancer.


Drinking beverages at excessively hot temperatures has been a topic of concern in relation to cancer risk. Several studies have explored the association between consuming hot beverages, including tea, and the risk of developing certain types of cancer, particularly esophageal cancer. However, it's important to note that the evidence linking hot tea consumption to cancer is still limited, and more research is needed to establish a definitive connection.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified the consumption of beverages at very high temperatures (above 65°C or 149°F) as "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2016. This classification was based on studies primarily conducted in populations that traditionally consume extremely hot beverages, such as mate or black tea, served at temperatures well above what is typically consumed in many other regions.


It is believed that repeated exposure to hot temperatures may damage the cells lining the esophagus, leading to inflammation and an increased risk of cancer development. However, it's important to note that the evidence is not specific to tea alone and includes various types of hot beverages. This risk appears to be more significant when combined with other factors such as excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use.


To minimize any potential risk, it is generally recommended to allow hot beverages, including herbal tea, to cool down to a comfortable drinking temperature (around 60°C or 140°F) before consumption. This reduces the potential for thermal injury to the esophagus.


Furthermore, it's worth highlighting that herbal teas themselves are generally considered safe and have been consumed for centuries without any substantial evidence linking them to cancer. Herbal teas are made from a variety of plants, flowers, and herbs, each with its own unique properties and potential health benefits. When consumed at appropriate temperatures, herbal teas can be a part of a healthy lifestyle.


As with any dietary consideration, it's always a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider if you have specific concerns or questions about your individual circumstances. They can provide personalized advice based on your medical history and any existing health conditions.


It's important to note that the majority of people who consume hot liquids, even at high temperatures, do not develop esophageal cancer. The overall risk is influenced by various factors, including individual susceptibility, lifestyle choices, and overall diet. If you have concerns about your beverage consumption, particularly if you regularly consume very hot liquids, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized advice based on your specific situation.



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