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Tea Drinkers Enjoy Potential Health Benefits, Study Suggests

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A cup of tea just got a little more relaxed.

Tea can be part of a healthy diet, and people who drink it may even be slightly more likely to live longer than those who don’t, according to a large study.

Tea contains beneficial compounds known to reduce inflammation. Previous studies in China and Japan, where green tea is popular, suggested health benefits. The new study extends the good news to the UK’s favorite drink: black tea.

Scientists at the US National Cancer Institute asked about the tea habits of nearly half a million adults in the UK and then followed them up to age 14. They adjusted for risk factors such as health, socioeconomics, smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, age, race and gender.

A person pours East Frisian tea in Lower Saxony, Aurich, Germany, on August 25, 2021.tMohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images file

Higher tea intake — two or more cups a day — was linked to a modest benefit: a 9% to 13% lower risk of death from any cause versus non-tea drinkers. Tea temperature, or adding milk or sugar, did not change the results.

The study, published on Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine, found the association held up for deaths from heart disease, but there was no clear trend for cancer deaths. Researchers weren’t sure why, but it’s possible there weren’t enough cancer deaths to show any effect, said Maki Inoue-Choi, who led the study.

An investigation like this, based on observing people’s habits and health, cannot prove cause and effect.

“These kinds of observational studies always raise the question, is there something else about tea drinkers that makes them healthier?” said Marion Nestle, a professor of food studies at New York University. “I like tea. It’s great to drink. But a careful interpretation seems like a good idea.”

There isn’t enough evidence to advise changing tea habits, Inoue-Choi said.

“If you’re already drinking one cup a day, I’m fine with that,” she said. “And please enjoy your cup of tea.”

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