Brewing health benefits: Hot tea may lower glaucoma risk

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HOT tea may do more than warm your insides: Drinking at least one cup of caffeinated tea a day may lower a person’s risk for glaucoma, a new study suggests. Researchers found that daily hot-tea drinkers were 74 percent less likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma, compared with those who drank no tea, according to the study, which was published today (Dec. 14)in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and occurs when pressure builds up inside the eye. This pressure may damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss or blindness. Cases of this serious eye condition are on the rise worldwide, according to the study.
The new findings show that lifestyle changes could help prevent vision loss from glaucoma, said lead study author Dr. Anne Coleman, a professor of ophthalmology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
In the study, the researchers reviewed data from the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a yearly survey evaluating the health and diet of people in the U.S. The researchers used that year because it also included eye test results for glaucoma.
Of the 1,600 men and women who had eye tests in the survey, about 5 percent had glaucoma, according to the study. To determine whether beverage choice had any ties to glaucoma risk, the researchers looked at the NHANES data, which included information on how frequently the survey respondents said they had consumed coffee, tea or soft drinks during the past 12 months. The researchers found that coffee lovers outnumbered fans of hot tea, but only a daily cup of caffeinated hot tea was tied to a lower risk of glaucoma. This finding held true even after factoring in whether someone smoked or had diabetes, both of which can affect glaucoma risk, the study said.
Interestingly, though the study showed a link between caffeinated hot tea and glaucoma risk, the results did not show a similar association between decaffeinated hot tea and the eye condition.
One possible explanation for this finding is that teas containing caffeine have more antioxidants than decaffeinated teas do, Coleman said.
In addition, there was no evidence that other beverages had protective effects: The analysis did not find that drinking hot coffee (either caffeinated or decaf varieties) or caffeinated iced tea or soft drinks every day was associated with a lower risk of developing glaucoma.

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