Elderly women who enjoy a couple of cups of tea a day have stronger bones than those who abstain, new data show.

“Tea drinking was independently associated with higher BMD in the cross-sectional analysis and with a lower reduction in BMD over four years in the prospective analysis,” reported researchers from two universities in Australia.

Women in both studies were 70-85 years old, and most consumed two to four cups of regular tea each day. BMD was measured using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).

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The cross-sectional study involved 1,027 participants. “Total hip BMD was 2.8% greater in tea drinkers than in nondrinkers,” the researchers observed. In the prospective study, all 164 women lost total-hip BMD, but nondrinkers lost significantly more: 1.6% vs. 4% (Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86:1243-1247).

The amount of tea consumed didn’t seem to matter in either study, raising questions about the mechanism at work. But the overall pattern seemed clear: “Tea intake has beneficial effects on bone structure,” the researchers concluded.