Tea drinkers benefit from possible health benefits, study finds

A cup of tea becomes a little more relaxing.

Higher tea consumption – two or more cups a day – was linked to a modest benefit: a 9% to 13% lower risk of death from any cause compared to non-tea drinkers. Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Tea can be part of a healthy diet, and people who drink it may even be slightly more likely to live longer than those who don’t, according to a large study.

Tea contains helpful substances known to reduce inflammation. Previous studies in China and Japan, where green tea is popular, have suggested health benefits. The new study extends the good news to Britain’s favorite drink: black tea.

Scientists from the US National Cancer Institute asked about the tea drinking habits of almost half a million adults in the UK, then followed them up to 14 years of age. They adjusted for risk factors such as health, socioeconomics, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, age, race and gender.

Higher tea consumption – two or more cups a day – was linked to a modest benefit: a 9% to 13% lower risk of death from any cause compared to non-tea drinkers. The temperature of the tea, or the addition of milk or sugar, did not change the results.

The study, published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, found the association retained for heart disease deaths, but there was no clear trend for cancer deaths. The researchers weren’t sure why, but it’s possible there weren’t enough cancer deaths for an effect to show, said Maki Inoue-Choi, who led the study.

A study like this, based on observing people’s habits and health, cannot prove cause and effect.

“Observational studies like this always beg the question: Is there something else about tea drinkers that makes them healthier?” said Marion Nestle, professor of food studies at New York University. “I like tea. It’s good to drink. But careful interpretation seems like a good idea.

There is not enough evidence to advise changing tea habits, Inoue-Choi said.

“If you’re already drinking a cup a day, I think that’s fine,” she said. “And please enjoy your cup of tea.”

The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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