Some like it hot. Some like it very hot. If this last description fits you to a tea, then check our what may be brewing in the study just published in the International Journal of Cancer.
The study found that drinking at least 700 milliliters a day of tea that’s 60° Celsius or hotter was associated with about a 90% increase in the likelihood of developing a cancer of the esophagus called esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC). If a Jacuzzi sign says, “water may be 60° Celsius,” don’t get in, because 60° Celsius translates to 140°Fahrenheit, using the following formula: (60°C × 9/5) + 32 = 140°F. To borrow the catchphrase of Paris Hilton, “that’s hot.”
These results came from studying participants in the Golestan Cohort Study, which had enrolled people from the Golestan Province in northeastern Iran from 2004 to2008 This study cohort ended up including around 50,000 adults who ranged from 40 to 75 years old and were followed for a median of 10.1 years. Hot tea drinking is rather common in this province, and from 2004 to 2017, study participants had 317 newly diagnosed cases of ESCC.
At the beginning of the study, the researchers assessed each participant’s hot-tea-ness via three methods.
- Asking participants whether they tended to drink their tea warm/lukewarm, hot, or very hot: The study found that those who indicated a preference for “very hot” tea were 2.41 times as likely to have eventually developed ESCC, compared to those who preferred “cold/lukewarm” tea.
- Asking participants how many minutes they tended to wait from tea being poured to drinking it. Those who reported drinking tea less than 2 minutes after pouring were 1.51 time more likely to have develop ESCC than those who reported waiting for at least 6 minutes.
- Using a sample of cup tea to measure the temperature that participants preferred. This entailed first pouring two cups of tea, one to measure the temperature of the tea and the other for the participant to drink. The researchers then asked teach participant to sip the tea at different intervals while the tea progressively cooled and whether that temperature was consistent with what the participants usually drank. Based on this method, those who preferred 60°C or hotter tea were 1.41 times as likely to have eventually developed ESCC compared those who preferred tea less than 60°C.
Combining these findings showed that drinking very hot tea (60°C or hotter) correlated with a 90% increase in the likelihood in developing ESCC.
So, the question is hot tea or not hot tea? Well, keep in mind that a 60° C tea is not just a hot tea but it is a very hot tea. Therefore, this study’s results really focused on very hot tea rather than just hot tea. Moreover, such cohort studies can only show associations and cannot prove cause and effect. It is possible that people who are more likely to drink very hot tea also have other factors that could separately contribute to developing esophageal cancer. For example, do very hot tea drinkers also have different diets, social situations, or environmental exposures that the study did not capture?
However, this is not the first study to show an association between regularly drinking hot beverages and increased risk of esophageal cancer. For example, there’s the study mentioned in this Good Morning America segment from last year:
One theory is that hot beverages may cause damage to the lining of your esophagus. Over time, repeated damage and healing may result in abnormal growth occurring. Of course, if such damage is occurring, would this be the result of just the heat or instead specific components of the beverage? In other words, would you get the same results if you regularly drank very hot tea, very hot coffee, very hot water, very hot soda, or very hot ice cubes, which wouldn’t really be ice cubes anymore? Although more research is needed to better determine what may be going on, in 2016 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified very hot beverages, which are any beverage 65° C or 149° F or hotter, as probable carcinogens.
Therefore, if you are pouring yourself something piping hot, you may want to cool it a bit before drinking it. Your esophagus is not like your fingers or your arm, otherwise that would be really creepy. Your esophagus may not be able to feel the same pain when coming into contact with something very hot. Lack of pain doesn’t necessarily mean that damage isn’t being done. Therefore, before drinking anything, test the container first and then the beverage with your fingers. If the container is too hot to touch, then the beverage probably is as well. If the beverage is too hot for your fingers, then it is probably too hot for the rest of your body. If your fingers feel OK, then test the beverage very carefully with your lips or tongue before drinking it. Again if it is too hot for any part of your body (with the possible exception of your eye), it is probably too hot for your esophagus. You may want a hot body, but you don’t want a hot esophagus.
< div _ ngcontent-c14="" innerhtml="