Yes, really. A new study from China has shown that drinking tea at least three times a week is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all causes of death. The researchers concluded that the most favorable effects were seen among study participants who drank green tea and for people who maintained the practice of drinking tea daily long term. They came to these conclusions after analyzing information from 100,902 participants in a Chinese health study, none of whom had a history of heart disease, stroke or cancer. The team classified the study participants as habitual tea drinkers (who consumed tea three or more times a week) and those who drank tea less often, and followed all of them for a median of 7.3 years.
The study concluded that 50-year-old habitual tea drinkers would develop coronary heart disease and stroke 1.41 years later and live 1.26 years longer than those who never or seldom drank tea. The habitual tea drinkers also had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke, a 22 percent lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke and a 15 percent decreased risk of all-cause death.
According to senior author, Dr. Dongfeng Gu, M.D., Ph.D., of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, “The protective effects of tea were most pronounced among the consistent habitual tea drinking group.” He noted that earlier studies have suggested that polyphenols, the main bioactive compounds in tea, are not stored in the body long-term. For that reason, he added, “Frequent tea intake over an extended period may be necessary for the cardioprotective effect.”
The study also showed that drinking green tea was linked with approximately 25 percent lower risks for heart disease and stroke, fatal heart disease and stroke, and all-cause death. No such associations were observed for black tea.
Dr. Gu noted that a preference for green tea is unique to East Asia. “In our study population, 49 percent of habitual tea drinkers consumed green tea most frequently, while only 8 percent preferred black tea.”
The researchers wrote that green tea is a rich source of polyphenols, compounds that protect against cardiovascular disease as well as the risks for it including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They noted that during the oxidation of leaves to make black tea, the polyphenols are altered and may lose their antioxidant effects. Drinking tea with milk also may counteract the tea’s health benefits.
The study showed that the beneficial effects of drinking tea regularly were the most pronounced among men but only modest among women, perhaps because 48 percent of the men were habitual tea drinkers compared to only 20 percent of the women participating. Then, too, the researchers noted, women already have much lower incidence of death as a result of heart disease and stroke than men.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Xinyan Wang et al, “Tea consumption and the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality: The China-PAR project,” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, January 8, 2020, doi.org/10.1177/2047487319894685