Drinking Tea Probably Won’t Save Your Life
Why you don’t need to chug down boiled plant leaves to stave off mortality
There’s something wonderful about drinking a cup of tea. Whether it’s the first cup of the day, a short but pleasant break in between other tasks, or hours shared between friends with pot after pot, tea has something almost magical about it that humanity has enjoyed for millennia.
Media stories from across the world have recently been crying that tea drinking reduces your risk of death, with those who have a few cups a day 13% less likely to die than those who abstain. The theory is that various phytochemicals — compounds found in plants — in tea might be causing people to be healthier than they would otherwise be.
This theory has been bouncing around for a long time. If true, it would be fairly amazing — tea is essentially a zero-risk intervention, so if we can reduce our risk of death substantially with a few cups a day it would be one of the best things you could do for your health.
Unfortunately, the evidence isn’t nearly as strong as you may have heard. Tea is great, drink as much of it as you’d like, but the science doesn’t really support the idea that drinking a cup or two a day will save your life.
The New Study
The paper that has everyone discussing the merits of stewed leaves was recently published in the prestigious journal Annals of Internal Medicine, and looked at a very large cohort of people (just shy of 500,000) in the United Kingdom (UK). It was a fairly standard epidemiological paper — the authors took baseline measurements of a huge group of people in the UK, including asking those people how much tea they drank, and then followed them up for about a decade. After correcting for potential confounders, they found that the odds of dying over that decade for those who drank 3–4 cups of tea a day were 13% lower than for those who drank no tea…