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Drinking Coffee or Tea May Reduce Risk for Stroke and Dementia

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Drinking Coffee or Tea May Reduce Risk for Stroke and Dementia

Regular consumption of coffee or tea may help reduce the risk for both stroke and dementia, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Researchers have long known about many potential health benefits from drinking coffee in particular, from improved insulin sensitivity to lower risks for heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and liver disease. While tea hasn’t been the subject of as much research published in major journals, one study from several years ago found that drinking both coffee and tea may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. So there are ample reasons why people with diabetes might be interested in what the research has to say about these brewed beverages.

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For the latest study, researchers were interested in whether drinking coffee or tea might be linked to the risk for two potentially devastating brain problems: stroke and dementia. They noted that while previous studies have looked at the separate potential effects of coffee and tea, very few studies have looked at the combined effect of drinking both beverages. So for this study, they looked at both separate and combined effects of drinking coffee and tea on stroke, dementia, and dementia following a stroke.

The participants were 365,682 people who lived in the United Kingdom and were 50 to 74 years old when they enrolled in a general health study called the UK Biobank. They joined the study between 2006 and 2010, and were followed until 2020. During this follow-up period, the researchers looked at new cases of stroke and dementia, and compared these outcomes with participants’ coffee and tea consumption based on a food frequency questionnaire at the beginning of the study. When looking at the relationship between consumption of these beverages and stroke or dementia, the researchers adjusted for many different factors that could affect the risk for stroke and dementia, including sex, age, ethnicity, income level, body-mass index (BMI, a measure of body weight that takes height into account), physical activity, alcohol intake, tobacco use, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and health conditions including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.

Moderate amounts of coffee, tea consumption linked to reduced risk

During a median follow-up period of 11.4 years until diagnosis, 5,079 participants developed dementia and 10,053 had a stroke. The researchers found that the relationship between coffee or tea intake and dementia or stroke wasn’t linear — in other words, a higher or lower intake of these beverages didn’t always match with a lower risk for dementia or stroke. The lowest risk for both conditions was seen in people who drank two to three cups of coffee or three to five cups of tea per day, or four to six cups of a combination of coffee and tea. Compared with people who didn’t drink tea or coffee, those who drank both two to three cups of coffee and two to three cups of tea each day were 32% less likely to have a stroke and 28% less likely to develop dementia. What’s more, people who drank three to six cups of a combination of coffee and tea were 48% less likely to develop dementia following a stroke.

The researchers concluded that drinking moderate amounts of coffee or tea, separately or in combination, was linked to a lower risk for both stroke and dementia. The main limitations of the study, they noted, include that it was based on reported coffee and tea consumption at the beginning of the study — which may not perfectly reflect participants’ habits during the entire follow-up period. In addition, there might be unmeasured factors that affect both participants’ coffee and tea consumption and their risk for stroke and dementia — such as personality traits and difficult-to-measure lifestyle factors.

Want to learn more about beverages and diabetes? See “Staying Hydrated,” “Best Beverages for Staying Hydrated,” “Water Facts: Getting to Know H20,” and “What’s to Drink?”

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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