All the tea in China poses birth defect risk

A CHINESE study has linked daily tea drinking in women to a three-fold increased risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) during pregnancy.

The research took in the tea-drinking habits associated with more than 630 NTD-affected pregnancies, and almost 860 healthy pregnancies, in parts of Shanxi Province in northern China from 2002 to 2007.

There were 20 women who drank tea daily in the NTD-affected pregnancy group versus nine in the control group, equating to a threefold increase in risk.

Tea catechins were known to inhibit an enzyme that catalyses an inactive form of folate to the active form, the researchers said, and so could reduce the bioavailability of folate.

“Daily tea drinking during the periconceptional period was associated with an elevated risk of NTDs in this Chinese population,” the study concluded.

Epidemiology 2011; 22:491-96.