Can Tea Help Protect Your Bones?

If you are concerned about bone loss, a daily cup of tea might be just the brew for you.

Health Monitor Staff
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Several studies have linked caffeine intake to low bone mass, but most of the studies looked at women whose caffeine came primarily from coffee. Although tea has caffeine as well, it also contains chemicals that have a different impact on bones. To learn more, researchers studied more than 1,200 women between the ages of 65 and 76, dividing them into tea drinkers and non-tea drinkers.

The caffeine-bone health connection
Compared with the non-tea drinkers, the tea drinkers had significantly greater bone mass. This finding held up no matter how many cups of tea they drank each day—and regardless of whether they also smoked, used hormone replacement therapy or drank coffee.

The flavonoid factor
The researchers wondered whether the better bone mass might have come from adding milk to the tea, so they looked at that, too. It turned out that bone mass was higher in the tea drinkers regardless of whether or not they took their tea with milk. While the researchers aren't sure why caffeinated tea isn't as harmful to bone as coffee, they speculate that the flavonoids in tea may have a protective effect on bone mass.

Don't neglect dairy
Keri Gans, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says that the study's findings should be interpreted as just "one piece of what is undoubtedly a more complex puzzle." Until the issue is studied further, Gans advises, women should stick with what is well known. "Tea won't replace the calcium and vitamin D in dairy," she notes. "A diet rich in low-fat dairy products is what we know to be tried and true for supporting bone health."

October 2010