By Marlene Busko
WebMD Health News
Oct. 13, 2015 -- Drinking multiple cups of black tea -- as opposed to green or other tea -- with or without milk is linked to lower odds of a bone break in older women, a new study finds.
In more than 1,000 women participating in the Calcium Intake Fracture Outcome Study in Australia, those who drank at least three cups of tea a day had a 34% lower risk of getting a serious, osteoporosis-related fracture, and a 42% lower risk of getting a hip fracture, compared with women who rarely drank tea. The participants were about age 75.
"Previous studies, including our own, have demonstrated a beneficial effect of tea, a major source of dietary flavonoids, on bone structure," Dr. Richard L. Prince, from the University of Western Australia, and colleagues write in an abstract presented at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2015 Annual Meeting.
Their study shows only a link, and it wasn't intended to prove cause and effect, Prince said.
It's also unclear how flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) in tea work to benefit bones, he said. More research is needed.
But asked whether, in the meantime, an older women who is afraid of falling and breaking a hip should drink more tea, he replied: "Absolutely."
This study suggests that drinking a few cups of tea a day may be a useful preventive strategy for older women with a high risk of fractures, the researchers say.
They analyzed data from women in the calcium study. The 1,188 participants also completed a questionnaire about their eating and drinking habits. Based on their replies, the researchers estimated the amounts of flavonoids they took in.
Three-quarters of the flavonoid intake of the participants came from tea.
The women were divided into three groups: those who drank up to one cup of tea a week, one to three cups a day, and more than three cups a day. A total of 288 women were hospitalized for osteoporosis-related fractures during a follow-up period of about 10 years.
Women who got the most flavonoids had a lower risk of a fracture. But drinking between one and three cups of tea a day was not significantly better than drinking one cup a week.
John Robbins, MD, from the UC Davis Health System said the study was "interesting, not earth-shattering."
It would be tough to find people who drank this much tea in the United States, he said, and it would be hard to convince some study subjects not to drink it, "[since] if they're tea drinkers, they will want to drink their tea."
In Western Australia, about half of elderly women already drink three or more cups a day, but young people drink less tea, Prince said.
These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.
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