Why Our Hearts Love Coffee and Tea

Three women holding mugs

If drinking coffee or tea has become part of your daily routine, you might wonder what it’s doing to your long-term heart health. New research from Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that high tea consumption and moderate coffee consumption may be associated with decreased rates of death from coronary heart disease (CHD).

The study followed more than 37,000 tea and coffee drinkers over the span of 13 years. Participants completed food recalls to document their typical intake of tea and coffee, and were divided into groups that ranged from light to heavy consumption. Researchers accounted for variables such as health histories, height, weight, and waist circumference and recorded the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke during the study period.

Overall results showed that consuming more than six cups of tea per day was associated with a 36% lower risk of death from heart disease compared to consuming less than one cup of tea per day.  There appeared to be no such protective effect of tea-drinking at any amount for risk of death from stroke.  Among coffee drinkers, more moderate consumption levels (2-3 cups per day) were associated with the greatest risk reduction for death from heart disease (21%) compared to drinking less than one cup of coffee per day.

Researchers acknowledged certain inconclusive variables within their findings. For example, the difference between decaffeinated and regular coffee could not be accurately accounted for, nor could specific recommendations be made for type of tea, though due to its popularity in the Netherlands where the study took place, researchers assumed most tea consumption to be black tea.

Furthermore, researchers found that tea and coffee drinkers had opposite lifestyles, with tea drinkers tending to engage in healthy lifestyle habits and coffee drinkers being more likely to eat less healthy and smoke. It was difficult to say with certainty what impact these other lifestyle variables may have contributed to the overall results.

Advice on how to decrease one’s risk for heart disease has traditionally revolved around diet and physical activity. The American Heart Association recommends thirty minutes of physical activity most days along with a diet low in saturated fat in order to decrease cholesterol and risks for heart disease and stroke.  This study suggests that what you drink may contribute to your overall health as well.

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