Over the course of the 11-year study, people who drank five or more cups of green tea per day had a 16 percent lowered risk of dying from any cause and, during the seven-year follow-up, had a 26 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease when compared to people who drank fewer than one cup a day. The study found no association between green tea consumption and death from cancer.
The study noted that women seemed to get a greater benefit from the tea than men, as the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was reduced by 31 percent in women who drank more than five cups of green tea a day.
"The most important finding is that green tea may prolong people's lives through reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease," said lead researcher Dr. Shinichi Kuriyama.
Ellen mason, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the results may not apply to people who consume Western diets because the Japanese diet as a whole is recognized for its healthy properties.
"The rate of heart disease in Japan is already one of the lowest in the world, and the Japanese diet is believed to play a substantial role in keeping this low," she said. "The average British diet contains more saturated fat than the average Japanese diet, and our levels of heart disease are relatively high compared with many other countries in the world.
"It is questionable whether drinking the same amount of green tea a day in the UK would have a significant impact on levels of heart disease," Mason said, adding that subsequent clinical trials would be needed to prove whether green tea can prevent deaths from heart disease.
"I reach the exact opposition conclusion," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and creator of the HerbReference.com website. "If green tea can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease in Japanese people who already have excellent cardiovascular health, the herb may be even more beneficial in Westerners who don't follow heart-healthy diets," he said. "Americans have more room for improvement."
More than 3 million tons of tea is produced annually worldwide, and it is hailed as the most consumed beverage on Earth after water. Adams cautions consumers to buy green tea only from reputable sources, as much of the green tea sold around the world is contaminated with fluoride.