Dutch Study Links Tea Drinking to Reduced Heart Attack Risk

Tea is a rich source of dietary flavonoids, which have been shown to have a protective effect against ischemic heart disease through their antioxidant properties. In an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Geleijnse et al. examined the long-term impact of regular tea consumption on the incidence of fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarctions (MIs) in a group of older Dutch men and women. Even after adjustment for other lifestyle factors such as smoking, tea drinkers had a substantially lower risk of myocardial infarction than nondrinkers, and the association was particularly strong for fatal events.

The 4,807 participants were part of the Rotterdam Study of Dutch adults = 55 years old who were followed from 1990 to 1997 to assess the incidence of chronic disease and its relationship to diet and lifestyle factors. Their diets were assessed by food-frequency questionnaires; other data included smoking status, education level, and intakes of alcohol and caffeine. Over an average 5 years of follow-up, a total of 146 incidents of myocardial infarction occurred, 30 of which were fatal.

Those subjects who were heavy tea drinkersmore than 375 mL per dayhad roughly half the risk of heart attack of non-tea drinkers, and less than one-third the risk of a fatal attack.1 Higher intakes of the specific flavonoids found in black tea were significantly associated with a reduced risk of a fatal MI, but not with nonfatal incidences. The authors conclude that flavonoids, together with other antioxidants, may prevent excess vascular damage from ischemic heart disease and increase the chances of recovery from an MI.

Tea drinking in Western populations is generally associated with a healthy diet and lifestyle, and with less smoking. Thus part of the reduced risk of MI in this older population could be due to healthy habits that go along with tea drinking, such as higher consumption of fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants.

Additional sources:
Geleijnse, Johanna M et al. Inverse association of tea and flavonoid intakes with incident myocardial infarction: the Rotterdam Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:880-86.

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This release is provided by The American Society for Clinical Nutrition to provide current information on nutrition-related research. This information should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, consult your doctor. To see the complete text of this article, please go to: http://www.faseb.org/ajcn/May/12501-Witteman.pdf

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition