Drinking three cups of tea a day 'can lower your blood pressure'

It's good news for the two-thirds of Britons who have a cup of tea every day - enjoying a brew may significantly reduce your blood pressure.

Scientists at The University of Western Australia and Unilever discovered that drinking three cups of tea a day lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

However, researchers based their findings on drinking black tea and the effect of drinking tea with milk is not known.

Heart disease cases could fall by up to 10 per cent if everyone drank three cups of black tea a day

Tea is the world's second-most popular drink, after water. It is full of polyphenols, antioxidants that have been shown to stop cancer cells from growing. Another study from Harvard University found the drink could boost immune function.

Now researchers have found more proof that it keeps the heart healthy.

Lead author Research Professor Jonathan Hodgson said: 'There is already mounting evidence that tea is good for your heart health, but this is an important discovery because it demonstrates a link between tea and a major risk factor for heart disease.'

Blood pressure measurement consists of two numbers. The first is the systolic and measures blood pressure when the heart beats, or contracts to push blood through the body. The second number is the diastolic and measures the amount of pressure in between beats, when the heart is at rest.

In the small study, 95 Australian participants aged between 35 and 75 were recruited to drink either three cups of black tea or a placebo with the same flavour and caffeine content, but not derived from tea.

After six months, the researchers found that compared with the placebo group, participants who drank black tea had a lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure of between 2 and 3 mmHg (millimetres of mercury).

The authors believe a 2 to 3mmHg drop in blood pressure across the board would lead to a 10 per cent drop in the number of people with hypertension and heart disease.

Dr Hodgson wrote: 'A large proportion of the general population has blood pressure within the range included in this trial, making results of the trial applicable to individuals at increased risk of hypertension.'

He added that more research is required to better understand how tea may reduce blood pressure, although earlier studies reported a link between tea drinking and the improved health of people's blood vessels.

The study is published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.