Drinking tea a minimum of thrice every week could reduce the risk of dying from heart problems and is linked with a longer and healthier life, at least in China, new research suggests. Chinese researchers found the rewards associated with tea were more pronounced for drinkers of green, rather than black tea, and regarding those who had been drinking tea regularly over the longer period of time. The advantages were also clearer among men, the research indicated.
Researchers checked out data from 100,902 Chinese people without cases of heart attack, stroke or cancer and divided them into two groups: habitual drinkers who drank tea three or more times every week, those who never drank tea, and those who drank it less regularly. They followed up with them following a seven-year period.
Their analysis found that regular tea drinkers had a 20% lower risk of having cardio disease and stroke, and a 22% lower likelihood of dying from heart disease and stroke. Specifically, they found that regular tea drinkers could expect to live 1.26 years longer at age 50 than individuals who didn’t regularly take part in cup of tea.
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“We came to find that the protective outcome of habitual tea consumption were very pronounced and robust across different outcomes for men, but only modest for women,” Dr. Dongfeng Gu from China’s National Center for Cardiovascular Disease, Peking Union Medical College and the Chinese Academy of Medical Science said via email. “One reason might be which the proportion of habitual tea consumers among men was approximately two and a half [times] as high as that among women,” Gu said. Some 48% of the men in the study were regular tea drinkers, compared with 20% of ladies.
Gu said Chinese women were very likely to drink herbal tea produced from rosebuds or lotus leaves however this information wasn’t included.
In their analysis, the researchers controlled for some factors like smoking, drinking, eating habits and physical activity that could have explained the link between tea drinking and driving longevity. However, as an observational study it can’t establish cause and effect, only association.
“Other things to consider that are not mentioned within the study are: Firstly, what individuals who weren’t drinking tea were drinking — was tea replaced by sugary drinks or caffeinated beverages … and started that what increased their risk…?” said Jodie Relf, a registered dietitian and spokesperson regarding the British Dietetic Association.
Black vs. green
The advantages linked to drinking black tea “were not much,” Gu said, but that could be since there were far fewer black tea drinkers present in the research — only about 8% of the habitual tea drinkers engaging in the study said they preferred black tea.
Gu also said that green tea is a richer supply of flavanoids, especially tea polyphenols, and these bioactive compounds could be protective against cardiovascular disease. While from the same plant and containing the same amount of caffeine, black tea is processed differently from green leaf tea after picking. “Black tea is fully fermented and tea polyphenols might be oxidized into pigments and inactivate during fermentation. Thus green tea ends up being more effective than black tea in anti-oxidation, improving blood lipid profile, and in turn, to become more effective in cardiovascular protection,” Gu said.
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Gunter Kuhnle, a professor of nutrition and food science, University of Reading in the UK, who was not engaged with the study but conducts research into the association between flavanoids and health, said it’s not currently known how tea — or even the compounds found in tea — affect health.
“The antioxidant effect of polyphenols found in tea has long been assumed to become responsible, however this has been resoundingly disproved in the last decade. Many of the compounds present in tea might have a brilliant effect, however this is at the moment still under investigation,” he told the Science Media Centre (SMC) in London.
As the world’s most popular drink after water, Gu said that tea-drinking habits varied from place to place and of course the findings will possibly not apply to Western countries, where black tea has been a more accepted choice — often taken with milk or sugar.
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“Tea consumption is part of a cultural heritage, along with its health effects might be confounded by other consuming patterns, for instance, intake of other flavanoid-rich food or beverages like coffee.”
The conclusions of previous research on the health advantages of tea has been inconsistent, Gu said, with the study noting that green leaf tea were linked to lower risk of cadiovascular disease in Japan however in the british isles no link was observed with black tea taken with milk.
“This study strengthens the body of evidence that habitual tea drinking is associated with lower chances of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, though it cannot give proof that it’s definitely the tea that’s responsible,” Dr. Jenna Macciochi, a lecturer in immunology at the University of Sussex, told the SMC. However, she noted that “a body of evidence in nutrition means that whole diet patterns are more informative of diet-disease relationships than any isolated food or nutrient.” Dr. Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston Medical School, Aston University, said that while green leaf tea is safe and may even have benefits, green leaf tea supplements “ought to be considered carefully as there has long been a number of cases of liver damage reported in individuals who have consumed these in large doses.”
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