When I go to make myself a second (or third) cup of coffee in the morning, I always feel a tiny bit guilty, certain that it must be bad for me to drink so much. Sometimes I brew a cup of tea instead, vaguely thinking that it must somehow be better for my health to switch things up — and according to a new study, it actually could be!
Seeking to better understand the link between coffee and tea consumption and stroke and dementia, researchers from Tianjin Medical University looked at the coffee and tea-drinking habits of almost 400,000 adults in the UK between the ages of 50 and 74. They found that not only did drinking several cups of coffee or tea each day have a potentially protective effect against both stroke and dementia, people who drank a combination of tea and coffee each day fared the best over the 14-year course of the study.
How much coffee or tea should you drink?
The study, which was published last week in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that people who drank two to three cups of coffee, three to five cups of tea, or a combination of four to six cups of the drinks each day had a lower risk of stroke and dementia, compared with those who drank less, or none at all.
How much lower was the risk? Study participants who mixed it up and drank two to three cups of coffee along with two to three cups of tea every day had a 32 percent lower risk of stroke, and a 28 percent lower risk of dementia.
While previous research has indicated that coffee consumption can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (particularly dark roast coffee), and a daily cup of tea can help fend off cognitive decline, scientists are still trying to fully understand why this is so. In this study, they specifically wanted to know whether the combination of these popular drinks had any effect on the incidence of dementia and other age-related brain disorders.
About ten percent of deaths worldwide are due to stroke, according to a 2017 study. Dementia, or cognitive decline, is a common after-effect of a non-lethal stroke, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that it affects more than 55 million people around the world.
While no one is suggesting that people who aren’t already coffee and tea fiends should start mainlining the popular drinks, this new study is one more reason not to feel bad about your daily habit — and to be cautiously optimistic about its effect on your health.
“We cannot impute causality, and say ‘drinking more coffee or tea is good for your brain.’” warns Dr. Lee H. Schwamm, chair of the American Stroke Association Advisory Committee and chair in Vascular Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital, who spoke to CNN about the study. “What we can only say is that in this study, people who reported moderate coffee and tea drinking were less likely to have a stroke or dementia occur in the 10 years of follow-up.”
With the further caveat that study participants reported their own drink consumption — making this study observational rather than controlled — and also that they weren’t representative of the entire UK population (never mind the global population), it does seem that regularly sipping these steamy treats could be good for you.
The bottom line? “Our findings suggested that moderate consumption of coffee and tea, separately or in combination, were associated with lower risk of stroke and dementia,” said the study’s authors in a press release.
That’s enough for me to feel better about my next cup of coffee — or tea.
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