Researchers say that people who drink tea enjoy many heart-healthy benefits, but those benefits were far greater for people who habitually drank green tea, not black.
BEIJING — Tea is often overshadowed by its perkier counterpart coffee, but it has been proven to hold a number of health benefits such as soothing digestion, boosting the immune system, and providing helpful antioxidants. Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t come as a shock that a new study conducted in Beijing finds that drinking tea at least three times per week is associated with a longer and healthier life.
“Habitual tea consumption is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death,” says first author Dr. Xinyan Wang, of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, in a release. “The favorable health effects are the most robust for green tea and for long-term habitual tea drinkers.”
In all, 100,092 people with no history of history of heart attack, stroke, or cancer were included in the study. All of these participants were separated into two groups: habitual tea drinkers (at least three times per week) and never or non-habitual tea drinkers (less than three times per week). Each participating adult was tracked for a median time period of 7.3 years.
The ensuing results overwhelmingly pointed to habitual tea drinkers enjoying more healthy years of life and an overall longer expected lifespan. Researchers estimate that 50-year-old habitual tea drinkers will develop coronary heart disease and stroke 1.41 years later and live 1.26 years longer than their counterparts who rarely or never enjoy a brew. These individuals also enjoy a 20% lower risk of heart disease and stroke, a 22% lower risk of fatal heart attack and stroke, and a 15% lower risk of all-cause death.
Habitual drinkers who maintained their tea habit throughout the two follow-up surveys also displayed a 39% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, a 56% lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and a 29% lower risk of all-cause death in comparison to consistent non-habitual tea drinkers and those who never drank tea.
“The protective effects of tea were most pronounced among the consistent habitual tea drinking group. Mechanism studies have suggested that the main bioactive compounds in tea, namely polyphenols, are not stored in the body long-term. Thus, frequent tea intake over an extended period may be necessary for the cardioprotective effect,” comments senior author Dr. Dongfeng Gu.
Upon looking into specific types of tea, the research team determined that green tea is linked to a roughly 25% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, fatal heart disease and stroke, and all-cause death. Black tea, on the other hand, exhibited no significant associations.
Dr. Gu made it a point to note that green tea is the tea of choice for much of East Asia. “In our study population, 49% of habitual tea drinkers consumed green tea most frequently, while only 8% preferred black tea. 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,” he explains.
As far as why green tea appears to be so much more beneficial than black tea, the research team say two elements are likely at play. First, green tea is full of polyphenols which help prevent cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Black tea, conversely, is fully fermented meaning that the majority of its polyphenols end up losing their anti-oxidative effects. The second possible element at play here is the fact that black tea is commonly served with milk, which has been shown to possibly negate the positive effects of tea on vascular functioning.
Regarding genders, tea does seem to be more beneficial for men, at least according to this study’s findings.
“One reason might be that 48% of men were habitual tea consumers compared to just 20% of women. Secondly, women had much lower incidence of, and mortality from, heart disease and stroke. These differences made it more likely to find statistically significant results among men,” says Dr. Wang, offering up a possible explanation for this observation. “The China-PAR project is ongoing, and with more person-years of follow-up among women the associations may become more pronounced.”
The study is published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.