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Drink Tea to Your Heart's Content

A recent study provides good news for the billions of tea drinkers around the world: tea confers a significantly reduced risk of heart attack.

This Dutch study conducted by epidemiologists at Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands, examined the relationship between drinking black tea and the incidence of heart attacks in 4,807 men and women aged 55 or older. Using dietary questionnaires to determine the amount and duration of tea consumption over the course of almost six years, researchers found that people who drank more than 375 ml per day of black tea (approximately 12 ounces or 3 cups) had a 43% reduction in risk of heart attacks compared with non-tea drinkers.

The authors suggest tea's heart-healthy benefits may be due to the fact that tea is a rich source of flavonoids, which may improve heart function. In fact, tea is the major source of flavonoids in Western populations.

In this study, the intake of dietary flavonoids (quercetin + kaempferol + myricetin) was significantly inversely associated with fatal heart attack-the higher an individual's consumption of these protective phytonutrients, the lower his or her risk of death due to heart attack.

Study data also revealed that those who drank the most tea were thinner, smoked fewer cigarettes, were more educated, and had healthier diets-all health-promoting lifestyle choices that support tea's heart-protective effects; however, even after researchers controlled for these other beneficial factors, tea was still found to have an independent and significant protective effect.

All non-herbal teas come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis). The differences in taste, as well as flavonoid and caffeine content, arise from the way in which the leaves are processed. Green tea, which contains the highest levels of flavonoids and the lowest levels of caffeine, is unfermented. Oolong tea is partially fermented, and black tea is fully fermented. Although tea naturally contains caffeine, even in black tea, which contains the most, the amount of caffeine is approximately one-quarter that found in regular coffee.

In addition to tea, many of the World's Healthiest Foods are rich sources of flavonoids. Sources of these heart-protective nutrients include: apples, apricots, blueberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans, and tomatoes.

To learn more about these flavonoid-rich foods, including quick and easy cooking and serving ideas, simply click on the highlighted name of the food in the above list.

For some truly exceptional recipes that will help you enjoy flavonoid-rich foods more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating, take a look at the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes containing of these foods. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the foods for which you'd like some recipes from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.

References: Geleijnse JM, Launer LJ, van der Kuip DA, Hofman A, Witteman JC. Inverse association of tea and flavonoid intakes with incident myocardial infarction: the Rotterdam Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2002 May;75:880-6. Laz Bannock, PhD.,, Technical Newsletter, June 15, 2002.