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Coffee or Tea? Implications for Cardiovascular Health

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Tea or coffee? Both are among the most widely consumed beverages across the world. 1 Often, the choice is simple and based on preference and habit, but increasingly patients are asking which of these beverages is better for them and for health. Popular beliefs seem to sway toward tea as the more beneficial drink; however, definitive studies in this area still are pending.

We know that coffee consumption is related to a lower incidence of diabetes and improved endothelial function. 2 In June 2016, the World Health Organization declassified coffee as a carcinogen and noted it has protective effects against specific carcinomas (liver and uterus). 3 However, studies of the effect of coffee on cardiovascular health have been less definitive and limited by homogeneity among the study group and perhaps confounded by the association of tobacco use with coffee consumption.

For centuries, tea — a beverage brewed from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant — was known throughout the Eastern Hemisphere for its widespread medicinal uses. As interest in possible health benefits of this plant spread to the western world in the 1980s, research into the properties and mechanism of action accelerated. 4 Most researchers believe the benefits of tea derive from the abundant flavonoids in all forms of tea, although some forms have more antioxidants than others. Flavonoids, known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, are found in most fruits and vegetables. Current studies suggest potential health benefits in many disorders, including specific carcinomas, hypertension, and disorders of the eye, such as glaucoma and retinopathy, but studies have had conflicting results, particularly when field-tested on humans. 4,5

Noting that confounding variables, such as ethnic background, socioeconomic status, and nutritional intake, contaminate many studies looking at tea, coffee, and cardiovascular disease, Miller et al studied a diverse population and controlled...