The 4,807 participants were part of the Rotterdam Study of Dutch adults ≥ 55 years old who were followed from 1990 to 1997 to assess the incidence of chronic disease and its relationship to diet and lifestyle factors. Their diets were assessed by food-frequency questionnaires; other data included smoking status, education level, and intakes of alcohol and caffeine. Over an average 5˝ years of follow-up, a total of 146 incidents of myocardial infarction occurred, 30 of which were fatal. Those subjects who were heavy tea drinkers—more than 375 mL per day—had roughly half the risk of heart attack of non-tea drinkers, and less than one-third the risk of a fatal attack.1 Higher intakes of the specific flavonoids found in black tea were significantly associated with a reduced risk of a fatal MI, but not with nonfatal incidences. The authors conclude that flavonoids, together with other antioxidants, may prevent excess vascular damage from ischemic heart disease and increase the chances of recovery from an MI.
Tea drinking in Western populations is generally associated with a healthy diet and lifestyle, and with less smoking. Thus part of the reduced risk of MI in this older population could be due to healthy habits that go along with tea drinking, such as higher consumption of fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants.
Geleijnse, Johanna M et al. Inverse association of tea and flavonoid intakes with incident myocardial infarction: the Rotterdam Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:880-86.
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