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Tea drinking lessens female artery plaque

By staff reporter , 14-Mar-2008

The antioxidant-driven functional properties of tea have been highlighted in a French study that has shown tea drinking can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, found women who drank tea reduced levels of plaque build-up in their arteries thereby reducing risk for heart disease and stroke. The study found carotid plaques were evident in 45 per cent of non-tea drinking women, in 42.5 per cent of women drinking 1-2 cups of tea daily and in only 33.7 per cent of those drinking three or more cups a day. The study involved 2,613 men and 3,984 women, aged about 73-years-old whose carotid artery plaque was assessed in relation to tea drinking and other dietary habits and medical and personal history. Hardy arteries Dr Catherine Hood of the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP), which is funded by the trade group the UK Tea Council, noted the study was not "confounded by other factors such as presence of disease in the subjects and other lifestyle behaviours." "Findings did not depend on whether the women were smoking or not, whether or not they took hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and whether or not they suffered from vascular disease," she said. "The same inverse association between drinking three or more cups of tea a day and carotid plaque was found in women aged more or less than 75 years, with a body mass index of less or more than 27, with or without hypertension. No significant interaction was found with level of education or fruit and vegetable intake. In short, the association between increased tea consumption and reduced carotid plaque was independent of dietary and lifestyle habits, age and major cardiovascular risk factors." Dr Sanjay Prasad from the heart and stroke charity, CORDA commented: "Several studies suggest increased tea consumption is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease, including atherosclerosis and vascular event. However, according to the researchers of this study, it is the first to show that increased tea consumption is associated with reduced carotid plaque, so suggesting a protective effect of drinking three or more cups a day on carotid atherosclerosis." Dr Prasad called for more studies into the area. Artery plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in blood. When plaque builds up in the arteries, the condition is called atherosclerosis. Caffeine The benefits of consuming another of tea's constituent parts, caffeine, was highlighted in a recent British Nutrition Foundation review of 41 double-blind, placebo-controlled caffeine trials. It found the stimulant's benefits to include improved alertness, short-term recall and reaction time, better mood and reduced levels of fatigue. The review, published by the British Nutrition Foundation, analysed trials conducted over the past 15 years and found caffeine-associated health benefits even at low dosage levels. It is thought caffeine impacts mood and performance by acting on neurotransmitters in the brain. "This study provides further evidence that moderate caffeine sources, such as tea, offer cognitive and performance-related benefits," said UK-based nutritionist Carrie Ruxton. "Most of the studies supported the idea that taking in modest levels of caffeine every day makes us more alert, boosts short-term memory and improves reaction time. There were also consistent findings that caffeine consumption is linked to a positive mood and less feelings of fatigue." "This is great news for tea drinkers," said TAP's Dr Hood. "We already know that tea contains powerful antioxidants, but this study also shows ongoing cognitive benefits from regular levels of tea consumption."

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