STUDY OBJECTIVE: To relate habitual (cups per day) tea and coffee consumption to conventional coronary risk factors and subsequent risk of coronary heart disease and death. DESIGN: Cohort study. SETTING: Nationwide random population study. PARTICIPANTS: Over 11,000 men and women aged 40-59 who took part in the Scottish Heart Health Study lifestyle and risk factor survey in 1984-87. Participants were followed up to the end of 1993, an average of 7.7 years, for all cause mortality, coronary death, or any major coronary event (death, non-fatal infarction or coronary artery surgery). Cox's proportional hazards regression model was used to estimate the hazard in consumers of tea and coffee relative to the zero consumption group, both before and after correction for other factors. MAIN RESULTS: Coffee and tea consumption showed a strong inverse relation. For many conventional risk factors, coffee showed a weak, but beneficial, gradient with increasing consumption, whereas increasing tea consumption showed the reverse. Increasing coffee consumption was associated with beneficial effects for mortality and coronary morbidity, whereas tea showed the opposite. Adjusting for age and social class had some effect in reducing associations. Multiple adjustment for other risk factors removed the associations for tea and most of those for coffee although there was a residual benefit of coffee consumption in avoiding heart disease among men. CONCLUSIONS: The epidemiological differences shown in this study occurred despite the pharmacological similarities between tea and coffee. Either they differ more than is realised, or they identify contrasting associated lifestyle and health risks, for which this multiple adjustment was inadequate.
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