Anyone who’s ever seen me walking the corridors at work, coffee mug firmly in hand, knows that I am a devotee of the coffee bean. Adam, a colleague and friend, is an equally devout worshiper of the tea leaf. Since we both spend our days inundated with food and nutrition research, our conversations often include a battle of the brews-style smack down of the latest research supporting either of our beloved beverages.
Recently there’s been a rash of research on the benefits of the bean that I have delighted in passing on to Adam. But Adam now has a bit of recent backing for his beverage of choice.
A study released today in the January 23, 2012 Archives of Internal Medicine looked at the effects on blood pressure of drinking 3 cups of black tea per day. Researchers from Australia studied 95 regular tea drinkers, ages 35 to 75 years old, who had daytime systolic blood pressure (SBP) between 115 and 150 mm Hg (in other words, the majority had elevated systolic blood pressure). One group was given 3 cups a day of black tea to drink for six months, while the control group was given a placebo that was colored and flavored to match the tea (and had the same caffeine content). Neither group was allowed to consume any other tea during the study.
At the end of six months, the tea drinkers had significantly lowered their blood pressure. True, it was only by a small amount (2 to 3 mm Hg), but for someone with elevated blood pressure, even a couple of points helps. And when looked at in the larger population, the researchers speculated that those couple of points might translate to a 10 percent reduction in the number of people with hypertension, and a 7 to 10 percent reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
When Adam and I discussed this study (over cups of coffee and tea), he said he found the study less of a revelation and more of a justification for what he’s already doing. When I asked him if he was thinking about the potential health benefits of his favorite brew, he said: “Not really,” looking with disdain at my coffee mug. “I’m kind of thinking ‘Nyah! Nyah!”
Effects of Black Tea on Blood Pressure: A Randomized Controlled Trial [Archives of Internal Medicine]