The health benefits of green tea have long been debated, but Chinese researchers believe they’ve settled some arguments in the popular beverage’s favor: Those who drink it regularly tend to avoid heart disease — and enjoy a longer life.
A team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences followed more than 14,000 study participants for an average of eight years. After adjusting for various lifestyle factors, the researchers found that habitual green-tea drinkers (three or more times per week) were 25 percent less likely than those who drank other types of tea during the survey period to suffer heart disease or stroke, die from those conditions, or succumb to any cause. Their results were published last year in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“The protective effects of tea were most pronounced among the habitual tea-drinking group,” explains senior study author Dongfeng Gu, PhD. “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.”
Fewer than 10 percent of study participants drank black tea, which Gu says made it difficult to establish strong conclusions about its particular health benefits, though he adds that the polyphenols in fully fermented black tea may lose their antioxidant effects during the process. It’s often served with milk, as well, which may counteract any heart-healthy benefits.