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Drinking tea moderately may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes: Study

Examination of data from 19 studies involving over a million people across eight countries has revealed that drinking black, green or Oolong tea may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers said.

The findings of the study, which is being presented during the ongoing annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm, Sweden, suggest that drinking at least four cups of tea a day can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 17% over an average period of 10 years.

“Our results are exciting because they suggest that people can do something as simple as drinking four cups of tea a day to potentially lessen their risk of developing type 2 diabetes”, says lead author Xiaying Li from Wuhan University of Science and Technology in China.

Though the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic compounds of tea are considered to provide health benefits, not much is known about their effects on type 2 diabetes and findings of various studies have remained inconsistent, the researchers noted in their paper.

To address this issue, they undertook a cohort study and a dose-response meta-analysis to define the relationship between drinking tea and future type 2 diabetes risk better.

In the first study involving 5,199 adults with no history of type 2 diabetes (T2D ) from the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), who were recruited in 1997 and followed until 2009, the researchers found that the tea drinkers had a similar risk of developing T2D compared to non-drinkers and the results did not change significantly when analysed by age and sex, or when participants who developed diabetes during the first three years of follow-up were excluded.

In the next step of the study, the researchers did a systematic review of all cohort studies investigating tea drinking and the risk of T2D in adults over 18 years of age up to September 2021, which included 19 cohort studies involving over one million participants from eight countries were included in the dose-response meta-analysis.

The researchers said their analysis found a linear association between tea drinking and T2D risk, with each cup of tea consumed per day reducing the risk of developing T2D by around 1%.

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The analysis further revealed that compared with adults who did not drink tea, those who drank 1-3 cups daily lowered their risk of T2D by 4%, while those who consumed at least 4 cups every day reduced their risk by 17%, which was independent of the type of tea the participants drank, the researchers wrote in their paper.

“While more research needs to be done to determine the exact dosage and mechanisms behind these observations, our findings suggest that drinking tea is beneficial in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, but only at high doses (at least 4 cups a day)”, Li said.

“It is possible that particular components in tea, such as polyphenols, may reduce blood glucose levels, but a sufficient amount of these bioactive compounds may be needed to be effective. It may also explain why we did not find an association between tea drinking and type 2 diabetes in our cohort study because we did not look at higher tea consumption,” she added.

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Stressing that their study is observational and cannot prove that drinking tea reduced the risk of T2D, the researchers said that it suggests that tea is likely to contribute to reducing the risk of T2D.

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