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Osteoporosis Health Center

There's Something to Be Said for Having 'Tea Bones'

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April 13, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Ladies, start your teapots! A new study from England shows that tea may build and strengthen bones -- protecting women against osteoporosis. If milk is added to the tea, the benefit is boosted even more.

Although several studies have cited caffeine intake a risk factor for osteoporosis and hip fracture in women, at least two European studies have reported that tea drinking protected against hip breaks.

The current study shows that "the magnitude of the effects of drinking tea was notable," writes lead author Verona M. Hegarty, PhD, a gerontology researcher at England's University of Cambridge School of Medicine. Older women who drank tea had higher bone mineral density measurements, an indicator of bone health, than those who did not drink tea. "Nutrients found in tea ... [may] protect against osteoporosis in older women," concludes Hegarty.

Her study, which involved over 1,200 women living in Cambridge, is published in this month's issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The women completed questionnaires regarding their health and lifestyle that included questions on daily tea and coffee consumption, smoking habits, physical activity, alcohol intake, whether they drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, whether coffee was instant or ground, whether they used hormone replacement therapy, if they added milk to tea, and so on. Each also had their bone mineral density measured, which showed bone strength in the spine and the area where hip breaks most often occur.

Among the women, there were over 1,100 tea drinkers and just about 120 non-tea drinkers, all between the ages of 65 and 76.

Tea drinkers had significantly greater bone mineral density measurements. Among coffee drinkers, those who also drank tea had significantly higher measurements as well.

"These findings were independent of smoking status, use of hormone replacement therapy, coffee drinking, and whether milk was added to tea," says Hegarty. Also, number of cups of tea per day did not seem to play a role, and women who added milk to their tea had much higher bone mineral density in the hip area.

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