Menopause Live - IMS Updates

Date of release: 23 November, 2009

Health-related benefits of green tea in an elderly population

The specific biological properties of green tea and the health benefits of its consumption have been postulated from epidemiological, basic and clinical investigations. In particular, numerous studies have shown the potential preventive and therapeutic effects of green tea on cardiovascular diseases and cancer in certain populations whose lifestyle involves high green tea consumption. A recent study by Suzuki and colleagues has reported on green tea consumption and mortality among elderly people in Japan [1]. 


13,636 tea drinkers who were stratified by both sex and age group (65–84 years) filled questionnaires in 1999, 2002 and 2006. On each occasion, the subjects were classified into those who were still alive and who returned the questionnaire, those who had died and their date of death, and those who were still alive but did not return the questionnaire. Since some were lost to follow-up, data from a total of 12,251 subjects were analyzed.


In the self-administered questionnaires, in addition to major basic characteristics, data requested included the frequency of green tea consumption per day during the past month, smoking and drinking habits, past history of illness including stroke, cancer, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Identification of the causes of death of the deceased subjects was accomplished by record linkage of the cohort database with the National Vital Statistics Database from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan.


Based on the frequency of daily green tea consumption, the subjects were divided into four groups, namely, those who drank < 1 cup per day, 1–3, 4–6 and ≥ 7 cups per day (the volume of 1 cup = 60–90 ml).


The mean age was 74.3 years. Less than 1 cup/day of green tea was consumed by 2.8%, 1–3 cups by 5.2%, 4–6 cups by 48.1% and ≥ 7 cups by 23.9%. The majority of subjects who consumed < 1 cup/day were males, smokers and showed a sedentary lifestyle. The follow-up rate for > 6 years was 71.6%, and the mean follow-up period was 5.2 years.

All-cause mortalities for the groups drinking < 1 cup/day and ≥ 7 cups/day were 42.3 deaths/1000 person-years (95% CI 32.4–54.3) and 14.4 deaths/1000 person-years (95% CI 12.6–16.4), respectively. The mortalities from cardiovascular disease (CVD) of these two groups were 17.1 deaths/1000 person-years (95% CI 11.0–25.2) and 3.2 deaths/1000 person-years (95% CI 2.4–4.2), respectively. The results indicated that green tea consumption and mortality from all causes, CVD and colorectal cancer were inversely associated, whereas green tea consumption and mortality from other cancers were not inversely associated. 


The authors concluded that this study provided more evidence of the protective effects of green tea on all-cause and CVD mortality of elderly residents who consumed green tea frequently. Although there was no clear pattern of an inverse association between gastric and lung cancer mortality, the protective effect of green tea against colorectal cancer was suggested. Thus, high cumulative exposure to green tea may produce significant preventive benefits for public health.


The present study added further evidence of a relationship between all-cause death and CVD death and green tea consumption, with a greater magnitude of the association than in past Japanese studies [2]. The difference in the results may be due to the mean age of the participants, 65–84 years, and the long-term exposure to green tea consumption in this study. The study by Suzuki and colleagues is the first cohort study to show an association between green tea consumption and colorectal cancer mortality, but such an association was not observed for other cancers, such as gastric and lung cancer. On the other hand, the results of some previous epidemiological studies on the relationship between tea consumption and reduction of cancer risk, including colorectal cancer, are inconsistent [3]. As Suzuki pointed out, the assessment of tea consumption based on a single question in a self-administered questionnaire is not accurate and needs to be validated. Furthermore, the limitations of this study are the lack of detailed information on other food items and socioeconomic status.
Accumulating scientific evidence obtained from investigations indicates the various biological actions of green tea on human physiological and pathological status, such as antioxidant activity, anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic potential, anti-hypertensive effect and cardiovascular disease risk, effects on oral health, solar ultraviolet protection, body weight control, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity and others [4]. It is clear from the evidence that the appropriate consumption of green tea provides beneficial health benefits without any serious adverse effect. Thus, regular consumption of green tea could be recommended for the promotion of public health.


Takeshi Aso
Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan


  1. Suzuki E, Yorifuji T, Takao S, et al. Green tea consumption and mortality among Japanese elderly people: the prospective Shizuoka elderly cohort. Ann Epidemiol 2009;19:732-9. Published October 2009.

  2. Nakachi K, Matsuyama S, Miyake S, Suganuma M, Imai K. Preventive effects of drinking green tea on cancer and cardiovascular diseases: epidemiological evidence for multiple targeting prevention. Biofactors 2000;13:49-54.

  3. Chung FL, Schwartz J, Herzog YM. Tea and cancer prevention. Studies in animals and humans. J Nutr 2003;133:3268-74S.

  4. Cabrera C, Artacho R, Gimenez R. Beneficial effects of green tea a review. J Am Coll Nutr 2006;25:79-99.