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Will You Live Longer If You Sip Green Tea?

A large study in China monitored people's tea-drinking habits and their health. Those who sip green tea several times a week seem to live longer.
Green tea bud and leaves. Tea plantations, Kerala, India

Is coffee or tea your beverage of choice? News from China, where a lot of people prefer tea, suggests that you might want to sip green tea. Apparently, tea drinkers live longer.

Why Should You Sip Green Tea?

A large epidemiological study called China-PAR (for Prediction for ASCVD Risk in China) included questions on habitual beverage consumption (European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, Jan. 8, 2020). [ASCVD stands for AtheroSclerotic Cardiovascular Disease.] More than 100,000 Chinese adults answered the survey questions and were followed up for an average of seven years. During that time, 1,477 people died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

When the researchers analyzed the data, they found that people who drank green tea at least three times a week were among the least likely to die of heart disease or strokes. Their risk was about 20 percent lower than that of people who never drink tea. The investigators calculated that habitual tea drinkers extended their life expectancy at age 50 by approximately one and a quarter years. The tea drinkers who maintained their habit over a period of many years got even more protection. They lowered their chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke by as much as 56 percent.

Since about half the tea drinkers preferred green tea, and only about 8 percent usually consumed black tea, it wasn’t feasible to make a robust comparison between the two. Consequently, we don’t know if you should sip green tea rather than black tea. However, it is clear that those who sip green tea are doing something right for their health.

Previous Research on How Tea Affects Health:

The investigators suggest that tea protects against stroke in part by lowering blood pressure. Green tea catechins may also help control cholesterol levels (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec. 2016; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Aug. 2011). A meta-analysis of fourteen randomized controlled trials involving over 1,000 subjects suggested that green tea may indeed lower total cholesterol as well as bad LDL cholesterol. The investigators concluded that green tea beverages and extracts produced beneficial changes in cholesterol levels.

Green Tea Drinkers in Japan:

Previously, a large epidemiological study of more than 40,000 Japanese men found that those who drank at least two cups of green tea daily for ten years had a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to men who drank no tea (Annals of Epidemiology, Oct. 2009). Recent research confirms that Japanese people who sip green tea at least five times a day are less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who don’t drink it (European Journal of Epidemiology, Oct. 2019).

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Citations
  • Wang X et al, "Tea consumption and the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality: The China-PAR project." European Journal of Preventive Medicine, Jan. 8, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487319894685
  • Samavat H et al, "Effects of green tea catechin extract on serum lipids in postmenopausal women: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec. 2016. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.137075
  • Zheng X-X et al, "Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: A meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Aug. 2011. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.110.010926
  • Suzuki E et al, "Green tea consumption and mortality among Japanese elderly people: The prospective Shizuoka elderly cohort." Annals of Epidemiology, Oct. 2009. DOI: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2009.06.003
  • Abe SK et al, "Green tea consumption and mortality in Japanese men and women: A pooled analysis of eight population-based cohort studies in Japan." European Journal of Epidemiology, Oct. 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s10654-019-00545-y
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I switched to green tea because I thought it was healthier. I didn’t realize that it contains oxalate, and if you are prone to oxalate kidney stones you should not drink it. I ended up with 2 kidney stones and no longer drink any tea.

Did the researchers have data regarding the Chinese and Japanese subjects’ diets? I’m thinking the percentages would be different when comparing to American subjects.

I’m wondering what a cup of tea is in ounces. Is it 8 ounces? Also, there was another study that recommended letting the tea cool down a bit. Drinking tea very hot, like right after it boils, is associated with a higher risk of esophageal cancer.

I love it when research validates what we already know!

Very interesting article. Thank you. Will decaf green tea offer the same benefits?

Any green tea? i.e. decaf? regular? sencha? mancha?

I am a tea drinker (black, common brand name) as were my female family members; they all lived long lives up into their 90s. I used to tease them that the tea was keeping them alive because of tannin, the same substance that makes redwoods red. Who knows? This may indeed be the case. I’m 83 and vigorously healthy.

What was the absolute risk of death in the groups? Knowing that would help reader assess the importance of the findings that relative risk does not.

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