Drinking green tea may prolong your life, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2006, vol. 296, no. 10).

For 11 years, researchers at Japan's Tohoku University evaluated more than 40,000 Japanese adults (ages 40 to 79) with no existing history of stroke, coronary heart disease, or cancer. They found green tea consumption to be inversely associated with mortality, especially mortality due to cardiovascular disease.

Women who drank five or more daily cups of green tea benefited most, decreasing their heart disease mortality risk by 31 percent compared with women who drank one cup or less per day. The men who drank the most tea also fared well, with a 22 percent reduced risk, compared with men who drank little or no tea.

Although green tea had the most dramatic effect on heart disease mortality, it appeared to reduce overall mortality risk, by 22 percent for women drinking five or more daily cups, and by 12 percent for men.

"Tea drinking lowers blood markers of inflammation that are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease," says tea expert Jack Bukowski, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "New evidence also shows that tea drinking decreases blood platelet stickiness, an important cause of the blood clots that cause strokes and heart attacks."

Made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub, green tea naturally boasts numerous healing compounds, including "superpower" antioxidant EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate).