Can Green Tea Lower Your Heart Disease Risk?

For decades, researchers have been tying the health benefits of green tea to a reduced risk of heart disease (via JAMA). However, the reasons why this beverage has such an important impact on cardiovascular health have remained unclear. Studies about green tea and heart disease frequently appear in medical journals. For example, a 2021 study of 40,000 tea and coffee drinkers showed that drinking green tea can decrease the likelihood of a second heart attack in people who have already had one. Additionally, a joint study from the University of Lanzhou and Yale University showed that male green tea drinkers had lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than male non-tea drinkers.

Of course, these are just a few of the many, many studies that have investigated the apparent connection between green tea and heart health. The real question isn't if green tea can lower the risk of heart disease — it's how.

What's in green tea?

The cardiovascular benefits of green tea stem from catechin, an anti-inflammatory immune-booster found naturally in tea leaves (via Healthline). In particular, the catechin at play in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, a compound believed to have benefits ranging from improving memory to aiding weight loss, slowing the growth of some cancers, and, yes, even protecting your heart. Green tea appears to lower both blood pressure and fat buildup in the blood and, "given that high blood pressure and high blood fat levels are risk factors for heart diseases, regulating them can promote heart health," Healthline explained.

Of a 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, which found that green tea can improve longevity,  Dr Jenna Macciochi, Lecturer in Immunology, University of Sussex, said, "This study strengthens the body of evidence that habitual tea drinking is associated with lower rates of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease" (via Science Media Centre). "There are confounders and limitations with this type of study — so 'tea drinkers live longer' cannot be assumed to mean 'drinking tea leads to living longer.'" Dr. Macciochi noted that It may be green tea that has exceptional health benefits, or it may be that those who drink green tea are already leading healthier lifestyles. Thus, more research is needed.

How to drink green tea

It might seem like the effects of green tea are touted everywhere, and that might make it hard to trust that the health benefits of this beverage are truly as great as they seem. But whether it's reduced to a chemical compound in a lab or consumed in the morning with breakfast, green tea is scientifically proven to be good for you — as long as you're drinking it the right way, and consuming it in moderation.

"The healthiest way to prepare [tea and coffee] is without an unnecessary amount of added sugars," Dr. Hiroyasu Iso, a professor of public health at Osaka University told the American Heart Association. You may also want to skip the milk. One study in the European Heart Journal found that adding milk to green tea may detract from the benefits the beverage has on blood vessel function. To get the most out of your heart-healthy green tea, drink it without any additives.

It's also important not to overindulge in green tea, as that can lead to liver toxicity or kidney stones. This is less of an issue when one is drinking cups of green tea, and more concerning for those taking green tea or EGCG supplements, according to a study in Food and Chemical Toxicology.