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Tea and Cardiovascular Disease

Source Tea Advisory Panel


Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the main cause of death in the UK, accounting for over 230,000 deaths a year, more than one in three people. The main forms of CVD are Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and stroke. About half of all deaths from CVD are from CHD and about a quarter are from stroke.[1] CHD is the most common cause of death in the UK; around one in five men and one in six women die from the disease.1

 Risk Factors associated with CHD

There is no one single cause for CHD, instead the risk of developing it is determined by a combination of factors, some of which are unalterable, others that are potentially modifiable. These risk factors are outlined in Table 1.

Table 1

Modifiable Risk Factors

Non-modifiable risk factors

Hyperlipidaemia (raised cholesterol and triglycerides)

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Reduced physical activity





Family history



Other physiological factors and conditions that may increase the risk of developing CHD,[2] include:-




Primary prevention of CHD involves adopting a ‘healthy lifestyle’ to control the ‘modifiable’ risk factors. The important aspects of this type of lifestyle include:-

 Dietary Recommendations

A healthy diet[3] that includes the following;-

can help to reduce the risk of CHD by altering a range of risk factors in a number of ways. Some of these effects are outlined in Table 2.

Table 2[4]

Dietary Intervention

Physiological Effect

Omega 3 fatty acids (oily fish, rapeseed oil)

-        Anti-inflammatory, protecting against endothelial damage

-        Anti-thrombotic

-        Reduces triglycerides

-        Improves insulin sensitivity

-        Anti-arrhythmic effects


Other fatty acids

-        Action of omega–3 fatty acids is improved by lower intakes of saturated fat

-        Lower saturated fats reduces the risk of thrombosis and reduces serum lipids


Fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts


-        Antioxidants protect against Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation

-        Rich in potassium, may help to control blood pressure

-        Rich in folic acid, may prevent homocysteine formation

-        Contain soluble fibre, helping to improve lipid profiles



-        Improved HDL levels

-        Possible antioxidant effects



The benefits of tea

There is growing evidence suggesting that other dietary components may enhance the general healthy eating recommendations. For example, research is highlighting that there maybe a beneficial relationship between tea drinking and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

 The evidence for tea and CVD

A number of epidemiological studies[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19] have demonstrated that total flavonol/ flavonoid or tea consumption is linked to a decreased risk from heart disease and stroke. However, not all studies have shown similar protective effects.[20],[21],[22],[23]

Inconsistencies from these studies maybe as a result of their design e.g. lack of detail about exposure to tea – quantity, strength and variety, insufficient information about the flavonoid contents of foods and other risk factors for CVD not being considered. These details may influence the end results and consideration of these factors is required for any future research.

In an attempt to reach a conclusion regarding the effect of tea drinking on CHD risk, a couple of meta-analyses have been conducted using results of all the available population studies. Huxley[24] investigated the relationship between dietary flavonol intake and coronary heart disease mortality. Using results from 7 prospective cohort studies, prior to 2001, it was found that individuals in the top third of dietary flavonol intake had a 20% lower risk from CHD mortality, compared to those in the bottom third. The conclusions from a second meta-analysis that included observational studies investigating the relationship between tea drinking and CHD (between 1966 and 2000) suggested that drinking 3 cups of tea a day reduces the risk of myocardial infarction by 11%.[25]

Protective mechanisms of tea

The outcomes from these studies have created great interest in understanding the mechanisms by which tea may confer its cardiovascular protective properties. A number of possible mechanisms that have been put forward, based mainly upon animal and in-vitro studies, include:

These mechanisms are likely to be of relevance in humans although to date results from human studies remain inconclusive:

Other factors that have been proposed for tea’s potential cardioprotective properties include beneficial effects on

In summary

From a number of epidemiological studies investigating the relationship between tea drinking and cardiovascular disease, it is reasonable to conclude that drinking both green and black tea is compatible with dietary advice to help protect against CVD. However, although the scientific evidence for the mechanisms by which tea exerts its positive health effects is growing, it is not yet conclusive and represents promising areas for future research in longer term, well controlled human trials.


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[2] Stanner S (2005) Cardiovascular Disease: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Risk Factors. BNF Task Force Report

[3] Department of Health (1994) Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease, Report of the Cardiovascular Review Group of the Committee of Medical Aspects of Food Policy (COMA). Report No. 46. London: HMSO

[4] British Nutrition Foundation. Diet and Heart Disease: A round table of factors. London: Chapman and Hall, 1997

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[50] Bingham, S. A., Vorster, H., Jerling, J. C., Magee, E., Mulligan, A., Runswick, S. A. & Cummings, J. H. (1997) Effect of black tea drinking on blood lipids, blood pressure and aspects of bowel habit. Brit. J. Nutr. 78: 41-55.

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