Drinking Tea May Benefit the Heart and Blood Vessels, From the July 2015 Harvard Heart Letter

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Black and green tea contain flavonoids-beneficial plant chemicals that may lower heart disease risk. Drinking tea may lead to modest drops in cholesterol, blood pressure, and other factors linked to heart problems.

Tea drinkers are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who don't drink this soothing beverage. The hefty dose of flavonoids in tea may keep the heart and blood vessels healthy, according to the July 2015 Harvard Heart Letter.

"Tea is a good source of compounds known as catechins and epicatechins, which are thought to be responsible for tea's beneficial health effects," says Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. These compounds belong to the flavonoid family of plant chemicals.

Flavonoids have been shown to quell inflammation. That, in turn, may reduce the buildup of cholesterol-filled plaque inside arteries. Green tea has slightly higher amounts of flavonoids than black tea.

Short-term studies have shown that drinking tea may improve vascular reactivity—a measure of how well blood vessels respond to physical or emotional stress. There's also evidence that drinking black or green tea may lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels.

Several large, population-based studies show that people who regularly drink black or green tea may be less likely to have heart attacks and strokes. However, people who drink tea tend to be different from people who don't drink tea. As a result, researchers can't be certain if it's the tea or something else that tea drinkers do that lowers their risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Drink tea if you enjoy it, in moderation, and not because you're taking it as a medicine," says Dr. Sesso. Stirring in a little sugar is fine, but adding a few heaping teaspoons of sugar probably cancels out tea's possible benefits, he notes. And beware of the sugar found in many bottled teas, which can contain up to nine teaspoons of sugar per serving—almost as much as colas and other soft drinks.

Read the full-length article: "Brewing evidence for tea's heart benefits"

Also in the July 2015 Harvard Heart Letter:

  •     How a sleep shortfall can stress the heart
  •     Getting to the heart of kidney disease
  •     Who needs a high-tech heart scan?

The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free). Contact us for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

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