(NaturalNews) Drinking several cups of tea or coffee daily appears to cut your risk of heart disease by more than one-third, Dutch researchers have found.
"It's basically a good news story for those who like tea and coffee," said lead researcher Yvonne van der Schouw. "These drinks appear to offer benefits for the heart without raising the risk of dying from anything else."
The study appeared in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, a journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers followed 40,000 healthy people for 13 years, then compared rates of heart disease with consumption of coffee and tea. They found that participants who drank between three and six cups of tea per day were 45 percent less likely to die from heart disease than those who drank less than a cup a day.
Drinking coffee or larger amounts of tea was also protective against death from heart disease, but not as strongly. People who drank more than six cups of tea a day reduced their risk by 36 percent compared with the low tea-drinking group, while those who drank between two and four cups of coffee daily reduced their risk by 20 percent compared with those who drank either more or less coffee. These effects remained after researchers adjusted for other heart disease risk factors, such as smoking and exercise level.
Neither coffee or tea consumption appeared to affect the risk of dying from any other cause, including stroke or cancer.
The study did not include people already suffering from heart disease, so its results cannot be generalized to such high-risk populations.
"But for healthy people, it appears that drinking coffee and tea is not harmful and it may even offer some benefits," van der Schouw said.
Part of the study's significance lies in the fact that the most popular tea consumed in the Netherlands is black tea, while most prior studies have focused on the benefits of green tea.
"The perception has been that green tea is the 'healthy' tea, but this study suggests black tea may be just as good for the heart," said nutrition professor Rachel K. Johnson of the University of Vermont. "That will be good news to people like me who are not big green tea lovers."
Johnson is also an American Heart Association spokesperson.
In the United States, levels black tea consumption are significantly higher than green tea consumption.
Johnson notes that while the consumption levels found to be beneficial in the study might seem high, they are relatively easy to achieve.
"Iced tea is very popular in some parts of the country, especially in the summer," she said. "Just make sure to go easy on the sugar. I would hate for people to get the message that they should be drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages."
Scientists remain unsure why tea, and to a lesser extent coffee, appear to offer heart protective benefits. Research thus far has focused on a family of plant chemicals known as polyphenols, particularly the flavonoids. Studies on individual flavonoids and on other foods containing them (such as red grapes and wine, dark berries, red beans and dark chocolate) have confirmed their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other health-promoting benefits
Ellen Mason of the British Heart Foundation noted that while tea and coffee in moderation may provide some heart benefits, they cannot undo the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.
"It's worth remembering that leading a healthy overall lifestyle is the thing that really matters when it comes to keeping your heart in top condition," she said. "Having a cigarette with your coffee could completely cancel any benefits, while drinking lots of tea in front of the TV for hours on end without exercising is unlikely to offer your heart much protection at all."