Tea may help women strengthen their hip bones, preventing the risk of fractures commonly associated with osteoporosis, according to researchers.

The Australian study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted using 1,500 female volunteers, ages 70 to 85, over a five-year period, and tracked the effects of tea consumption on their bone density.

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The hip bone mineral density of participants was measured during the first and fifth year of the study. By the end of the study, women who drank tea had a 2.8 percent increase in bone density in their hip area than those who did not drink tea. The tea drinkers lost approximately 1.6 percent of their hip done mineral density while non-tea drinkers lost 4 percent.

On average, more than three-quarters of the women drank tea daily and consumed about three cups per day. There was no clear link between the amount of tea consumed and bone density gains, but researchers said that the antioxidant flavonoids in tea may be responsible for the benefits.

Flavonoids "have been shown to have a stimulatory effect on new cells that build bone in cell line studies," said lead researcher Amanda Devine, a senior lecturer in the nutrition program at the School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science, Edith Cowan University. “Also, the weak estrogenic [effect] of phytoestrogens found in tea may be beneficial especially to older women whose levels of endogenous estrogen is low. Also, the addition of milk to tea will add calcium to the diet, which is also needed for healthy bones."