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Hawaii News

Tea, coffee no risk to heart, study finds

Islanders who drink coffee and tea in modest amounts needn’t worry about associated risks of heart disease or stroke, according to a Dutch study reported by the American Heart Association.

Dutch researchers evaluated coffee and tea consumption among 37,514 participants for 13 years and found reduced heart disease deaths among high and moderate tea drinkers and moderate coffee consumers.

The study not only is good news for health-conscious consumers, but also for Hawaii’s coffee and tea producers. Hawaii is the only coffee-growing state listed by the National Coffee Association.

"It’s encouraging that we don’t have to worry too much about cutting down on modest caffeine use," said Dr. Ralph Shohet, director of cardiovascular research at the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and AHA Metro Oahu Board president.

"What this shows is that coffee and tea in moderation are unlikely to be a concern for causing or contributing to heart disease."

Shohet said it is an interesting study that appears to be carefully done, but such studies have limitations because "all they can really address is association rather than causation. … People who drink coffee and tea may be different than people who don’t drink coffee and tea. So you have to take that finding with a grain of salt."

The researchers did note that coffee and tea drinkers have different health behaviors, saying many coffee drinkers tend to smoke and have a less healthful diet than tea drinkers.

The study also was based on self-reported tea and coffee consumption and lacked specific information on the type of tea participants were drinking.

American health authorities tout the benefits of green tea, but black tea accounts for 78 percent of the tea consumed in the Netherlands and green tea only 4.6 percent, the study said.

Highlights of the findings:

» Drinking more than six cups of tea daily was associated with a 36 percent reduced risk of heart disease, compared with those who drank less than one cup of tea per day.

» Drinking three to six cups of tea per day was associated with a 45 percent reduced risk of death from heart disease, compared with drinking less than one cup per day.

» Modest coffee drinkers (two to four cups daily) had a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease compared with those drinking less than two cups or more than four cups.

» Neither coffee nor tea consumption affected stroke risk.

Shohet said it is reassuring that coffee and tea "don’t cause increased risk of cardiovascular disease. But I wouldn’t encourage people to drink them to protect themselves against cardiovascular disease." Some people, such as those with heart rhythm disturbances, should not drink caffeinated beverages, he said.

He also reminds people if they take sugar or other things with coffee or tea, "that’s not going to be good."

"Basically, we got a vote of confidence in our coffee and tea industry," he added. "I guess to an extent this might influence people to cut down on sugar drinks and drink more coffee and tea."


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