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Coffee 111Tea and coffee may not be as bad for your health as many people think, new research suggests.

People who drink four cups a day have been found in a major study to have lower blood pressure than those who drink none.

The findings seem to fly in the face of previous research which has linked caffeine intake to high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure, which affects one in four middle-aged people, can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and other illnesses.

Beyond the age of 65 around half of Britons suffer from the condition, with millions having to take medication to treat it. A 10-year study by French scientists showed heavy tea drinkers had lower blood pressure, pulse pressure and heart rate than lighter drinkers.

Heavy coffee drinkers were found to have slightly higher blood pressure than normal but ­non-drinkers had the highest readings. Report author Bruno Pannier, from the Preventive and Clinical Investigations Centre in Paris, said it was possible that the flavonoids in tea had a relaxing effect on blood vessels.

girl drinking coffeeHe said: “The vasorelaxing compounds included in these beverages might be involved in these results, something that has been suggested by the experimental data.” The study, presented to the European Society of Hypertension in Milan, made no distinction between black, herbal and green teas.

Researchers looked at the tea and coffee drinking habits of 180,000 men and women aged between 16 and 95. Subjects were asked to record their intake of coffee and tea and the results were divided into those who abstained, those who drank between one and four cups a day and those who drank more than that. The difference between the groups was small but scientifically significant, the authors concluded.

Doctors have argued for many years over the link between drinking coffee and tea and the risk of developing high blood ­pressure. While some studies suggest modest intake can reduce blood pressure, ­others have been inconclusive.

However, Nottingham GP Ian Campbell said people should not take the findings of the French study to mean that they can drink even more tea and coffee. He said: “This is a fairly unusual study and appears to go against conventional understanding of the effects of too much caffeine. “Nobody should be encouraged to drink more tea and coffee as a result of this. Current guidance that two or three cups a day is sufficient is worth sticking to.”

According to current guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, doctors should ­“discourage the excessive consumption of coffee and other caffeine-rich products”.

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