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Tea Consumption & Mortality

iStock-1299342760A recent prospective cohort study of nearly half a million tea drinkers from the UK found that intake of tea at a level of 2 or more cups per day may be associated with lower mortality risk, regardless of genetic variations in caffeine metabolism.

Tea is a very popular beverage worldwide, with black and green tea being the most commonly consumed types. Previous studies, mainly on Asia populations where green tea is more prevalent, have suggested a modest inverse association between tea drinking and mortality. Studies on tea drinking and mortality in populations preferring black tea are more limited and have revealed inconsistent findings.

Both black and green tea contain high concentrations of flavonoids and other phytonutrients believed to confer health-giving properties. However, both types of tea also contain caffeine, which has garnered interest regarding its impact on health, particularly among persons genetically predisposed to impaired caffeine metabolism. Though generally lower in caffeine than coffee, tea is a significant contributor to dietary caffeine in populations with high tea consumption.

Personal preferences may also impact the health benefits of tea, as differing preparation methods (temperature, steeping time, and additives such as milk and sugar) may impact the extraction and concentration of flavonoids and other bioactive compounds from tea leaves. These differences may impact potential associations between tea consumption and mortality but have not been investigated in previous tea studies.

The objective of this study was to evaluate links between tea consumption and all-cause and cause-specific mortality, also considering any impact due to genetic variations in caffeine metabolism. Nearly 50,000 male and female UK-based participants aged between 40 to 69 years completed comprehensive self-assessment questionnaires covering sociodemographics, lifestyle, and health. Participants also received physical examinations and provided blood, urine, and saliva samples. They were monitored for up to 14 years. Self-reported tea intake was measured alongside all-cause mortality and mortality from leading causes of death, including cancer, all cardiovascular disease (CVD), ischemic heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease.

Results from the study reported that people who consumed two or more cups of tea per day (with some recording over 10 cups per day) had between a 9-13% lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who did not drink tea. Inverse associations between tea drinking and mortality from CVD, ischemic heart disease, and stroke were also noted. Findings were similar across all participants regardless of genetic score for caffeine metabolism and whether they also drank coffee.

Researchers concluded that black tea, even at higher intake, can be part of a healthy diet. However, they also noted that some important aspects of tea intake (for example, portion size) were not assessed in this study.

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