The pendulum of evidence about drinking tea and alcohol seems to swing widely depending upon what you are reading. The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on two studies, one out of the UK (the land of tea) and one from South Korea where a lot of men and fewer women seem to drink alcohol.
The first study was a prospective study (rather than a look-back) of people ages 40-69 that looked at tea intake against all causes of mortality. They followed almost 500,000 people for 11 years and found higher tea drinkers had decreased cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke and respiratory disease. Two cups of tea a day, up to 10 cups led to a decrease in death. The researchers didn't look at tea strength or type. They did report that consumption of coffee didn't change the results.
The 2nd alcohol study was more complicated to understand and looked at the relationship between alcohol use and cancer. The data came from South Korea where over 4.5million patients self reported no alcohol, mild drinking, moderate drinking or heavy drinking daily. They reported in grams and remember, about 28 gm = 1 oz.
Mild drinkers were under 1/2 oz a day. Moderate was 1/2-1 oz a day. Heavy drinking was over 30 gm or one oz a day. Think about the fact that a "shot" is 1.5 oz so they considered heavy drinkers people who have one drink a day!
They grouped the population into 5 categories. Non drinker, sustainer (maintaining a baseline level), increaser, quitter or reducer (reducing amount over time but not quitting).
Not surprisingly they found that mild drinkers who quit lowered their cancer risk. Heavy drinkers had the highest incidence of cancer and the non-drinkers had the lowest risk. In this huge population they were able to control for socioeconomic status, smoking, exercise, hypertension, diabetes etc.
I wondered what kind of alcohol they used and did it matter? It seems that an oz of wine might be different than 50% alcohol spirits. The researchers didn't seem to take this into account. Does it matter? Other studies have shown that a glass of wine (12% alcohol) a day can reduce cardiovascular events. But most studies have shown us that all alcoholic drinks, including red and white wine, beer and liquor are linked with cancer. The more you drink, the higher your risk.
What this study did prove is that there is a dose/response effect from drinking alcohol and heavy drinkers need to stop for their health. Even cutting back is beneficial.
The EverythingHealth take home message: Drink more tea. Drink less alcohol.
This tea drinker is age 96!!!