April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, a time to revisit the debilitating disease affecting 1.5 million Americans for whom a definitive cure or vaccine remains elusive. One encouraging note: Science continues to make strides in cracking the mystery of what role diet plays in reducing the risk of this degenerative nerve disorder. When researchers analyzed dietary data for 63,257 Chinese men and women (157 with confirmed cases of Parkinson’s disease) they found frequent black tea drinkers enjoyed a dramatically higher level of protection.

Specifically, those who drank black tea almost daily (about 6 cups a week) were 71% less likely to develop Parkinson’s over the course of the 12-year study. The benefit appears “dose dependent” — in other words, the more black tea consumed, the greater the protection: Those who drank fewer than 5 cups per month had an 11% lower risk, while those who drank between 5 to 23 cups a month had a 45% lower risk. Strangely, green tea did not lower Parkinson’s risk, though it’s other possible health benefits (e.g., lower cholesterol, better dental health, anti-cancer, weight management) are being well-studied.

Also interesting: BOTH caffeinated and decaffeinated black tea conferred protection, suggesting that other compounds, not the caffeine in the black tea, may be responsible. Previous research suggests other benefits to drinking black tea, including a 50% lower risk of high blood pressure. While adding milk does not affect phytochemical levels in tea, it does seem to neutralize some of the beverage’s vascular benefits, so try drinking your tea neat, or with a nondairy milk substitute.

Bonus: For further Parkinson’s protection, try ramping up your workout! Harvard researchers found that men with the highest levels of vigorous exercise had a 50% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s, compared to those with the lowest activity levels.

Published April 1, 201