- New research shows improved cardiovascular health among people who drink tea three or more times per week.
- The health benefits are attributable to polyphenols, a compound found in black and green tea along with other foods.
- The benefits were most pronounced among drinkers of green tea, and also for men rather than women.
A cup a day could help keep the doctor away — and increase your lifespan.
That’s according to research published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
In it, researchers suggest that drinking tea three or more times a week can lead to improved cardiovascular health and a longer life.
In their large-scale, long-term study, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing tracked 100,902 participants with no prior history of heart attack, stroke, or cancer.
This group was split into two cohorts: those who drank tea three or more times a week and those who didn’t.
After follow-ups for a median time of 7.3 years, researchers determined that those who drank tea more frequently were more likely to stay healthy for a longer period of time.
Habitual tea drinkers were found to be 20 percent less likely to develop heart disease and stroke, 22 percent less likely to die from heart disease and stroke, and 15 percent less likely to die of other causes.
A subset of slightly more than 14,000 people was also assessed in a follow-up study.
Those who kept their tea-drinking habit in both studies saw more pronounced benefits, including a 56 percent lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke.
Some experts quoted on the website of the Science Media Centre point out that this research was an observational study and doesn’t necessarily establish a link between tea drinking and cardiovascular health and longevity.
Experts say the health benefits seen in habitual tea drinkers might be attributed to polyphenols — organic chemicals that are found in both black and green tea.
“Polyphenols are derived from plants, especially flowering plants,” Dr. Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Healthline. “The ‘phenol’ part of polyphenols are where the plants and flowers derive their scent or aroma.”
Dr. Guy L. Mintz, director of cardiovascular health and lipidology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in New York, told Healthline that polyphenols are known to have cardiovascular benefits.
“These benefits include improvement in function of the blood vessels, more dilating and less constriction,” he said. “These compounds can also increase good cholesterol, which is also cardiac protective. These compounds also have a reduction in inflammation and makes our platelets, clotting factor, less sticky.”
All of this combines to make a chemical that’s a known booster of cardiovascular health.
Experts point out that because polyphenols are not retained in the body for long, it stands to reason that frequent, ongoing tea consumption is necessary to see the benefits.
It’s worth noting that the benefits vary depending on the type of tea.
While both black and green tea contain polyphenols, the differences may be more pronounced among drinkers of green tea.
This could be because the fermentation process that goes into creating black tea might dilute the effectiveness of polyphenols. There’s also the fact that black tea is often served, and diluted, with milk.
Dr. Dongfeng Gu, PhD, a senior study author and professor of epidemiology and medical genetics at the Chinese Academy, noted that the preferences of research participants skewed heavily toward green tea.
“In our study population, 49 percent of habitual tea drinkers consumed green tea most frequently, while only 8 percent preferred black tea,” Gu wrote in a release. “The small proportion of habitual black tea drinkers might make it more difficult to observe robust associations, but our findings hint at a differential effect between tea types.”
Another wrinkle to consider is that health benefits were more pronounced in men than in women.
Researchers said this could be attributable to the lower incidence of heart disease and stroke in women.
There’s also more data on men who frequently drink tea as 48 percent of men and only 20 percent of women were identified as habitual tea drinkers.
The authors say their research is ongoing and should yield more findings as more data is gathered.
Non-tea drinkers can probably adjust their lifestyle to include three or more cups per week into their routine.
But for those who don’t drink green tea, there are other ways to get these benefits.
Polyphenols can also be found in foods such as red wine, dark chocolate and berries. Supplements containing synthetic polyphenols can also be found, but they’re not as beneficial as the real thing.
“The message from this study is loud and clear: Tea, particularly green tea, is cardio protective, and should be considered as another tool in the cardiac prevention toolbox,” said Mintz. “Maybe we should listen to the advice the hare offers to Alice in ‘Alice in Wonderland’: ‘Take more tea!’”