Objective: To give an overview of the association between tea consumption and iron status.
Methods: A PUBMED search was performed (up to June 2001) for all publications containing the words: tea and ferritin, h(a)emoglobin, iron status or an(a)emia. Sixteen studies were evaluated in groups with high (infants, children and premenopausal women) or low prevalence of iron deficiency (men and the elderly).
Results and discussion: Of the 16 studies reviewed, six included infants and children, six premenopausal women, two men and two the elderly. In study groups with high prevalence of iron deficiency, tea consumption was inversely associated with serum ferritin and/or haemoglobin. The association disappeared when adjusting for confounding (dietary) factors, except for one study including 40% of iron deficient women. In groups with low prevalence of iron deficiency, tea consumption was not inversely associated with serum ferritin and/or haemoglobin. In those at risk for iron overload, such as middle-aged men, tea consumption may lower serum ferritin concentrations as reported in one study. This finding awaits further confirmation.
Conclusion: This overview shows that tea consumption does not influence iron status in Western populations in which most people have adequate iron stores as determined by serum ferritin concentrations. Only in populations of individuals with marginal iron status does there seem to be a negative association between tea consumption and iron status.