Can drinking tea help prevent macular disease?

Posted: Tuesday 02 June 2020

Recent media reports have suggested that drinking tea could help to prevent the UK’s most common form of macular disease.

But, what are the facts? We have looked at the science behind the claims.

The story, which has appeared in a number of publications across the UK in the past week, claims that tea drinking can be beneficial to eye health.

The article states that ‘daily tea drinking could reduce the risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts, among the most common potentially sight-threatening eye conditions’. It also says that ‘tea catechins may also protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD)’.

While tea is known to provide some health benefits, research has yet to show a direct link between tea drinking and the prevention of AMD.

Geraldine Hoad, Macular Society research manager, said: “There is currently not enough evidence to definitively say that drinking tea can help to prevent AMD.

“We do know that AMD is caused in some way by oxidative stress in the eye damaging retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a thin layer of cells at the back of the eye. Catechins found in tea – particularly green tea – have been shown to have anti-oxidative properties. Some scientists believe that these antioxidants could work to reduce oxidative stress in the RPE cells, but further research would be needed to find out if this had any effect in slowing down or stopping AMD.

“Anti-VEGF drugs are currently used in the treatment of wet AMD, preventing the growth of unwanted or unhealthy blood vessels.  A previous study has tentatively suggested that green tea extract may have anti-VEGF effects, but again, there is no conclusive proof of this.”