Could Drinking Hot Tea Protect Against Glaucoma?

Good news, tea lovers! In a recent study released Thursday in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, researchers found that drinking hot tea daily could lower the odds of developing glaucoma. What’s glaucoma? It is a disease of the eye’s optic nerve that affects an estimated 3 million Americans. It’s also a leading cause of blindness.

In the study, researchers from UCLA examined health and diet questionnaires from 1,678 men and women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The results? Among those who drink at least one hot cup of tea per day, the odds of having glaucoma were 74 percent lower than those of non-tea drinkers.

tea photo
Flickr | Laurel Fan

This study was originally intended to examine the connections between caffeinated beverages and glaucoma. Interestingly enough, there were zero links observed between coffee consumption and lower odds of developing glaucoma.

Currently, depending on what research you’re looking at, coffee drinkers can either be at higher or lower risk of glaucoma. The connection between the two is undetermined, said Anne Coleman, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher and director of the UCLA Mobile Eye Clinic in a recent Consumer Reports article.

What’s So Different About Tea?

So why tea and not coffee? Antioxidants found in tea, such as polyphenols, are known to help protect and repair cell damage. While coffee also contains polyphenols, they are different types, said Coleman. This may be why tea has a beneficial effect on lower glaucoma risks, while coffee’s effect is yet to be confirmed.

“We were quite surprised by these findings,” said Coleman. “There may be other lifestyle factors with these daily tea drinkers that we’re not accounting for here.”

It’s important to note that despite the findings in this study, it doesn’t prove that tea is preventative against the disease.

Moreover, the study didn’t differentiate between types of tea, whether white, green or other. Also, decaffeinated and iced tea could have lower levels of polyphenols, which is why they aren’t necessarily tied to lowering glaucoma risks either.

A cup of tea a day, however, certainly doesn’t hurt!