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Does Tea Make Anemia Worse?

By Sharon Therien ; Updated August 14, 2017

Tea consumption can cause or worsen iron-deficiency anemia, a type of anemia caused by a deficiency of iron. The tannins in tea interfere with your body's ability to absorb iron. If you have this type of anemia or are at risk, talk to your doctor about whether you need an iron supplement or other treatment.


Anemia is caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells, which leads to a lack of oxygen transport to your tissues. Symptoms can include fatigue, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain and pale skin. There are different types of anemia, but the one that can be affected by tea is iron-deficiency anemia. In this case, your body does not have enough iron, so it cannot make enough hemoglobin it needs for red blood cells.

Types of Iron

There are two different types of iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron comes from animal sources such as red meat and poultry. Nonheme iron, on the other hand, comes from plant sources like beans, dried fruit and leafy green vegetables. Your body absorbs and uses heme iron better than nonheme iron and it is also affected less by other foods. People who obtain enough heme iron from animal sources have less of a problem with iron deficiency even when they drink a significant amount of tea, explains a September 2000 article in the journal "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition."


Regularly drinking tea seems to reduce the effects of tea on iron absorption, according to a 2004 article in the “Nutrition Research” journal. The article studied the effects of iron on rats. In the study, tannins reduced nonheme iron in both short and long durations of tea drinking. However, the rats that became more used to the tea absorbed significantly more iron than the ones who weren’t accustomed to it.


To prevent causing or worsening iron-deficiency anemia, include a variety of iron sources in your diet. Include sources of heme iron in your diet or talk to your doctor about iron supplementation if you are a vegetarian. Include an abundance of vitamin C in your diet because this vitamin helps your body absorb iron. Some foods that include vitamin C are berries, kiwi, peppers and citrus fruit. The article in the journal "Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition" recommends not drinking tea with meals.

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