Green tea reduces coronary deaths

Drinking green tea can reduce by up to 25 per cent the risk of early death from heart disease, researchers say.

A Japanese study of more than 40,000 people suggests drinking five or more cups a day can also decrease deaths from other causes such as strokes.

But the researchers, from the Tohoku University School of Publjic Policy, in Sendai, found no link between green tea consumption and a reduced risk of death from cancer.

The results were published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study started in 1994, included 40,530 adults aged 40 to 79 in northeastern Japan, where 80 per cent of the population drink green tea regularly and more than half consume three or more cups a day.

Participants had no history of stroke, coronary heart disease or cancer at the outset, and were followed up for 11 years for deaths from any cause and for seven years for deaths caused by heart disease or cancer.

By last year, 4209 of the participants had died; during the seven-year follow-up to 2001, 892 had died because of heart disease, 1134 because of cancer.

Compared with participants who consumed less than one cup of green tea a day, those who consumed five or more cups had a 26 per cent lower risk of fatal heart disease and 16 per cent lower risk of death from any cause.

Women benefited most. Their risk of death from heart disease over seven years was reduced by 31 per cent if they drank five or more cups of green tea a day, though the researchers suggested this might have been because they smoked less than the men in the survey.

Chemicals in green tea called polyphenols, known to have strong antioxidant properties, have been studied extensively as possible preventive agents for heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants are known to neutralise the effect of compounds in the body called free radicals, which attack healthy cells.

However, the researchers found no significant association between green tea consumption and death from cancer. There were weak or neutral relationships between black tea or oolong tea (a traditional Chinese tea) and mortality.

Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world other than water, and because of this high rate of consumption even small health benefits could have large implications for public health, the researchers write.

Drinking more than two cups of green tea a day has been shown previously to halve the risk of mental decline in old age and cut the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to a half.

(By David Rose, Sept 2006, The Weekend Australian)
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Source: The Times