People Who Drink Tea Have 'Longer and Healthier' Lives, Study Suggests

Drinking tea has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, as well a "longer and healthier life" in a study.

The research involved 100,902 people from 15 provinces in China, who answered questions about their tea-drinking habits and provided medical records as part of a study on cardiovascular disease. The participants enrolled in 1998 and were followed up at least once by 2015.

Drinking tea at least three times per week appeared to extend a person's life by 1.26 years on average, and saw them live free from heart disease and stroke for 1.41 years more than those who never or rarely drank tea.

Regular tea drinkers appeared to have a 20 percent lower risk of having heart disease or stroke, and were 22 percent less likely to die of those conditions. They also appeared to have a 15 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality, the term used to describe deaths attributable to any condition.

And sticking to the habit of drinking tea appeared to boost health. Participants who often drank tea for at least eight years appeared to benefit from a 29 percent decreased risk of dying, a 39 percent reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke, and a 56 percent lower chance of dying from those diseases.

Of the habitual tea drinkers, 49 percent drank green tea, 43 percent scented or other teas, and 8 percent black. Drinking green tea was found to be associated with the biggest drops in the risk of developing and dying from heart disease and stroke, as well as all-cause mortality. Those who preferred other types of tea had lower risks of heart disease caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries, stroke, and dying overall. But the researchers didn't find a statistically significant link with drinking black tea and health benefits.

Dongfeng Gu of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, senior author of the paper published in thesaid in a statement: "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."

Gu told Newsweek that although the study was conducted in China, the findings may also relate to people who have similar habits in other countries.

As one of the most popular drinks in the world, there is great deal of interest in understanding tea's potential health benefits, said Gu, but population-based studies in the past have had inconsistent results.

Commenting on his team's work, Gu said: "The most exciting finding for us was that adherence to the tea-drinking habit for a long term could strengthen the health benefits of tea."

Gu acknowledged the team weren't able to uncover the mechanisms behind the association. But he believes the apparent health boost could come from compounds, particularly in green tea, that can protect against inflammation in the body, oxidative stress, and help cells in the blood vessels and heart. Evidence suggests these compounds might also help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

However, as drinking tea is part of Chinese culture, Gu said, the apparent health benefits might be mixed up in other eating habits, like consuming other flavonoid-rich products like coffee.

But Gu concluded it still appears habitual tea consumption can possibly "reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality, and help you live a longer and healthier life."

"For those who don't drink tea, we advise that they may have a try and find out whether they would like to pick up the habit," Gu said. "However, for people who don't drink tea, other food or dietary supplements with high content of flavonoids could also be alternatives."

In an editorial accompanying the study published in the journal European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, experts from the Department of Medicine at Italy's University of Perugia said the results suggest drinking tea regularly "may be considered as an overall health-promoting lifestyle behaviour."

But they stressed randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm the effects of different teas on the body before official recommendations can be made.

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A stock image shows a woman holding a cup of tea. Getty