TEA IS A REAL TONIC Eight cups of tea a day can boost your heart and brain A DAILY cup of tea can fight heart disease, boost brain power and even help you live longer, experts said last night. A global review of research papers on the health effects of caffeine has found that drinking up to eight cups of tea a day offers significant health benefits, including a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cocoa also have positive effects on mental function, increasing alertness, feelings of well-being and short-term memory. The research even suggested that people who cut out tea and coffee from their diet in a bid to be healthy may be doing more harm than good. The major review of 47 published studies was carried out by independent dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton. She found that an optimal intake of 400mg of caffeine a day equal to eight cups of tea or four cups of coffee delivered key benefits in terms of mental function and heart health without any adverse consequences. Tea is Britains most popular beverage, drunk daily by 77 per cent of the population. A number of studies have already linked its healthy antioxidant properties and high flavonoid content to preventing heart disease and cutting the risk of some cancers. One cup of coffee a day has also been found to halve the risk of cancers affecting the mouth and gullet. However, large amounts of caffeine can result in negative health effects, such as a higher risk of having small babies. Dr Ruxtons review aimed to debunk many of the myths surrounding caffeine. She found that regular tea drinking could help lead to reduced mortality, a lower risk of heart attack and lower cholesterol. She also highlighted three studies, involving 90,000 patients, which found that drinking four cups of tea or coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. A further study of 26,500 middle-aged smokers found that men who drank more than two cups of tea a day were 20 per cent less likely to have a stroke. Dr Ruxton, a public health nutritionist who has carried out extensive research on caffeine at Kings College, London, said: People who cut out caffeinated drinks may miss out on the potential health benefits of the compounds they contain. Her advice is in contrast to that of many health experts who often advise people to cut out tea and coffee from their diet to detox, and to drink herbal teas or water instead. Dr Ruxton also said there was no need for children to avoid tea and coffee and that it could even be better for them than juice. She suggested that caffeine intake in children be limited to 95mg daily, equal to two small cups of tea or one small cup of weak instant coffee. Dr Ruxtons review also found that caffeine did not cause dehydration and could improve physical performance in athletes by enhancing muscle contractions and stimulating fat burning. Dr Catherine Hood, of the Tea Advisory Panel, said: Caffeinated drinks have been unfairly demonised. Black tea, in particular, contains polyphenols, which are natural plant antioxidants. These have beneficial effects on many biochemical processes in the body because they protect cells against harmful free radicals. Flavonoids are thought to be especially useful, with a number of studies reporting a link between them and lower risk of heart attack. Registered nutritionist Angela Dowden warned that while caffeinated drinks had health benefits they should be drunk in moderation, particularly by pregnant women. Caffeine has been really demonised as a baddie, she said. Theres no need for people to cut it out entirely unless they have a sensitivity to it.