Drinking tea at least three times a week could be linked with a longer and healthier life, scientists say.
According to new research “habitual” consumption of the hot drink is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death.
But whether the tea being consumed is green or black may make a difference.
The analysis included 100,902 participants of the China-PAR project2 with no history of heart attack, stroke, or cancer.
Participants were categorised into two groups – habitual tea drinkers, those drinking three or more times a week, and never or non-habitual tea drinkers – those drinking less than three times a week.
They were followed-up for a median of 7.3 years, in the study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.
The research suggests a 50-year-old habitual tea drinker would develop coronary heart disease and stroke 1.41 years later, and live 1.26 years, longer than someone who never or seldom drank tea.
Compared with never or non-habitual tea drinkers, habitual tea consumers had a 20% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, and a 22% lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke.
They also had a 15% decreased risk of all-cause death, the study suggests.
First author Dr Xinyan Wang, of the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in Beijing, said: “Habitual tea consumption is associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease and all-cause death.
“The favourable health effects are the most robust for green tea and for long-term habitual tea drinkers.”
Researchers analysed the potential influence of changes in tea drinking behaviour in a subset of 14,081 participants with assessments at two time points.
The average duration between the two surveys was 8.2 years, and the median follow-up after the second survey was 5.3 years.
Habitual drinkers who maintained their habit in both surveys had a 39% lower risk of incident heart disease and stroke, 56% lower risk of fatal heart disease and stroke, and 29% decreased risk of all-cause death compared to consistent never or non-habitual tea drinkers, the study suggests.
In a sub-analysis by tea type, drinking green tea was linked with around 25% lower risks for incident heart disease and stroke, fatal heart disease and stroke, and all-cause death.
However, no significant associations were observed for black tea.
Scientists found 49% of habitual tea drinkers in the study consumed green tea most frequently, while only 8% preferred black tea.
They noted a preference for green tea in East Asia, and said the small proportion of habitual black tea drinkers might make it more difficult to observe robust associations, but that the findings hint at a differential effect between tea types.
The researchers suggest a number of reasons for this.
They indicate that green tea is a rich source of polyphenols which protect against cardiovascular disease.
While black tea is fully fermented and during this process may lose antioxidant effects.
Gunter Kuhnle, professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, said: “This study is an observational study and can therefore only establish an association – not a causal relationship.”
He added that the two cups per week as cut-off point was very little when compared to the average consumption of three to four cups per day in the UK.
Prof Kuhnle said: “It is not clear from the study whether there is any benefit from higher tea intake – and therefore there is no likely benefit from increasing tea intake by the majority of the British public.”