Researchers investigated the effects of coffee and tea on cardiovascular (CV) mortality and non-CV mortality in a large French population at low risk of cardiovascular diseases.
They found that drinking tea reduces non-cardiovascular mortality by 24 per cent.
The study, presented at European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Barcelona, included 131,401 people aged 18 to 95 years who had a health check up at the Paris IPC Preventive Medicine Center between January 2001 and December 2008.
During a mean 3.5 years follow up there were 95 deaths from CV and 632 deaths from non-CV causes. Coffee or tea consumption was assessed by a self-administered questionnaire as one of three classes: none, 1 to 4, or more than 4 cups per day.
The researchers found that coffee drinkers had a higher CV risk profile than non-drinkers, particularly for smoking.
The percentage of current smokers was 17 per cent for non-drinkers compared with 31 per cent in those who drank 1 to 4 cups per day and 57 per cent in those who drank more than 4 cups per day.
Non-coffee drinkers were more physically active, with 45 per cent having a good level of physical activity compared to 41 per cent of the heavy coffee drinkers.
The differences in blood pressure were small, with heavy coffee drinkers having a slightly lower systolic blood pressure (SBP) and higher diastolic blood pressure (DBP) compared to non-drinkers when adjusted for age.
Tea drinkers had the reverse profile of coffee drinkers, with consumers having a better CV risk profile than non-consumers.
One-third (34 per cent) of the non-drinkers of tea were current smokers compared to 24 per cent of those who drank 1-4 cups per day and 29 per cent of those who drank more than 4 cups.
Tea had a more marked effect on blood pressure than coffee, with a 4-5 mmHg decrease in SBP and 3 mmHg decrease in DBP in the heavy tea drinkers, compared to non-drinkers, when adjusted for age.
"Overall we tend to have a higher risk profile for coffee drinkers and a lower risk profile for tea drinkers. We also found big differences with gender. Men tend to drink coffee much more than women, while women tend to drink more tea than men," said researcher Professor Nicolas Danchin from France.
There was a trend for tea drinking to decrease CV mortality but the effect was not quite significant after adjusting for age, gender and smoking. But tea significantly lowered the risk of non-CV death,
"Tea drinking lowered the risk of non-CV death by 24 per cent and the trend towards lowering CV mortality was nearly significant," Danchin said.