Green tea linked to less disability in elderly

by Eric Schroeder
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JAPAN — Elderly adults who regularly drink green tea may exhibit a lower risk of incident functional disability, or problems with daily activities or basic needs, such as dressing or bathing, according to a study published on-line Jan. 25 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study, which was led by Yasutake Tomata of the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine and his colleagues, followed 13,988 Japanese adults aged 65 or older for three years.

The researchers gathered information on daily green tea consumption and other lifestyle factors via questionnaire in 2006, with data on functional disability retrieved from the public Long-term Care Insurance database over the following three years.

The frequency of green tea consumption was categorized as never, occasionally, or 1-2, 3-4, or more than 5 cups per day.

The researchers found those who drank the most green tea were the least likely to develop functional disability. Specifically, 7.1% of Japanese adults who drank at least five cups of green tea a day became functionally disabled, compared with 8% who drank 3 to 4 cups, 11% who drank 1 to 2 cups, and 13.3% who consumed less than 1 cup per day.

The study was adjusted to include the impact of lifestyle factors, dietary patterns and social support. But in their findings, the researchers found that green-tea drinkers generally had healthier diets, including more fish, vegetables and fruit, as well as more education, lower smoking rates, fewer heart attacks and strokes, and greater mental sharpness. They also tended to be more socially active and have more friends and family to rely on.

“Green tea consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of incident functional disability, even after adjustment for possible confounding factors,” Mr. Tomata and his colleagues wrote.

In the report, the researchers noted green tea consumption is significantly associated with a lower risk of mortality due to stroke, pneumonia, cognitive impairment, depression and psychological distress.

Even with their findings, the researchers stressed clinical trials are necessary to confirm the protective effect of green tea against functional disability.

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