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Can Drinking Black Tea Play a Role In Your Longevity?

Sipping afternoon tea can be a healthy habit.

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Whether you sip it for a sore throat or enjoy its herbal flavor, there’s no denying the health benefits of drinking tea. Green tea tends to get the most love from tea enthusiasts thanks to its vibrant color, earthy taste, and reputation as a weight loss booster and illness inhibitor. However, there’s another health-boosting tea that you may want to add to the mix: New research links daily tea consumption with living a longer life.

The Research

A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine looked at the relationship between tea consumption and risk of death. The research team, led by Maki Inoue-Choi, PhD, focused on black tea because of its ubiquity in the UK (where this study took place). Black tea is steeped using fermented leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. It contains two to four percent caffeine and is known for its dark color and spiced, nutty flavor.

Data from the UK Biobank included 498,043 women and men ages 40 to 69 years old. Participants shared their health background and, between 2006 and 2010, filled out questionnaires about their tea drinking habits and lifestyle. Researchers followed up with participants until early 2020.

The Results

The research indicated that participants who drank at least two cups of black tea every day reduced their risk of death by up to 13 percent compared to non-tea drinkers. Specifically, tea drinkers had a lower likelihood of dying due to ischemic heart disease and stroke. However, tea drinkers were not less likely to die from cancer or respiratory disease. The results were the same even when the below variations among participants occurred:

  • Participants also drinking coffee
  • Adding milk or sugar to the tea 
  • Steeping the tea at a preferred temperature
  • Having genetic variants relating to caffeine metabolism

The Study’s Limitations

While these findings are promising, it’s important to keep the study’s limitations in mind. Most notably, neither the cup size the participants consumed nor the tea’s strength (based on how long it was steeped) were measured. The authors also note that this is an observational study and cannot prove that drinking tea directly lowers the risk of death.

What This Means for You

This study emphasizes the health advantages of enjoying your afternoon tea. “People shouldn’t change their tea drinking habits based on this study alone,” Dr. Inoue-Choi says in a statement. “But if you drink tea already, you may be getting benefits from it.” 

These benefits, particularly for black tea, stem from the drink’s antioxidant-rich content that has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. While your tea collection is probably vast, it can’t hurt to show some love to this variety for your daily cuppa. “The results reinforce that tea, including black tea, can be part of a healthy diet,” Erikka Loftfield, PhD, concludes.

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