There's Something to Be Said for Having 'Tea Bones'
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
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.
Though more study is needed, Hegarty suggests that tea has components that
weakly mimic the effect of the female hormone, estrogen -- documented by other
researchers -- and may be important in maintaining bone mineral density in
postmenopausal women. Hegarty writes that tea's attributes may have little
effect in younger women and men but may be important in keeping bones healthy
in older women.
"This research presents some interesting findings," Pamela Meyers,
PhD, tells WebMD. "Most research on teas, especially on green tea, has
looked at its ability to lower risks of cancer and heart disease. This is the
first I have seen that has researched the effects of tea on BMD." Meyers is
a clinical nutritionist and assistant professor at Kennesaw State University
However, says Meyers, she would like to see more complete data on intake of
animal protein, calcium, caffeinated sodas and exercise -- all factors that can
affect bone density. She reminds women that high consumption of protein and
sodas may increase risk of osteoporosis, whereas extra calcium and exercise can
improve bone density. "I would like to see more studies into the [estrogen
effects] of tea, both green and black," she says.