The Regular Consumption of Tea May Help Slow Aging

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The regular consumption of tea has been repeatedly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and at least several types of cancer. A recent study in Japan followed over 12,000 people 65 to 84 for over 5 years.

They found that the risk of dying from CVD in those drinking 7 or more cups of green tea daily was reduced a remarkable 75% compared to those who drank little or no tea. This study also was the first prospective cohort study to report a significant (31%) reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer deaths. Overall those who reported drinking the most green tea had a 55% risk of dying compared to those consuming little or none.

Epidemiological studies have found regular tea drinkers usually have a reduced risk of lung, pancreatic, hematological , colon, skin, and prostate cancers. There is evidence suggesting tea drinking may help protect against developing type 2 diabetes and possibly Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. CVD, most cancers, type 2 diabetes, and serious brain diseases all increase with age. Might tea contain phytochemicals that slow the aging process? One indicator of biological age is telomere length. With age the length of telomeres in cells shorten. Telomeres are at the end of our chromosomes. Telomeres help keep the DNA strands from unraveling or sticking together, which can lead to cellular damage and malfunction. A study in China examined the length of the telomeres taken from over two thousand Chinese men and women age 65 and older. They found that people who drank about 3 cups of tea daily had telomeres that were 4.6 kilobases longer than those of people the same age who drank little or no tea. The authors speculated that perhaps the polyphenols in tea might be protecting the telomeres from oxidative damage. They also stated that 4.6 kilobases corresponds to about five less years of aging.

Bottom Line: Regular tea consumption appears to reduce the risk of many ills associated with old age. In humans the risk of all cause mortality roughly doubles every 8 to 10 years so Japanese tea drinkers who were 55% less likely to die from all causes than those who rarely drank tea also appeared about 5 years younger. It is perhaps premature to claim tea can slow the aging process but it seems likely it will reduce the risk of CVD, some cancers, and perhaps other ills.

By James J. Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN

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