Green tea could help pensioners stay in the pink, according to a study.
Those who drank the beverage stayed more physically active than their peers, researchers found.
Coffee and standard tea did not provide this benefit.
Researchers tracked the health of almost 14,000 men and women aged 65-plus for three years, noting what they ate and drank and factoring in data on any care they needed.
The more green tea they consumed, the more mobile and self-sufficient they were.
Those who got through at least five cups a day were 33 per cent less likely to develop a disability than those who drank less than one cup.
Three to four cups a day cut the risk by 25 per cent, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported.
Green tea drinkers fared better as they grew older even taking into account that they generally had healthier diets, lower smoking rates, were better educated and had more friends and family to rely on, the Tokyo University study found.
It is not clear why green tea gives such a boost to health. But it does contain high levels of polyphenols, plant chemicals thought to cut cholesterol and protect DNA from damage.
These are found at much lower levels in normal tea or in coffee.
However, the drink should be avoided by those taking the blood-thinning drug warfarin as the vitamin K in it can stop the drug from working properly.
Yasutake Tomata of the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine and his colleagues followed nearly 14,000 adults aged 65 or older for three years.
They found those who drank the most green tea were the least likely to develop ‘functional disability’, or problems with daily activities and basic needs, such as dressing or bathing
People who drank at least five cups a day were one-third less likely to develop disabilities than those who had less than a cup per day. Those people who averaged three or four cups a day had a 25 percent lower risk.
Although it’s not clear how green tea might offer a buffer against disability, Tomata’s team did note that one recent study found green tea extracts seem to boost leg muscle strength in older women.
While green tea and its extracts are considered safe in small amounts, though, they do contain caffeine and small amounts of vitamin K – which could interfere with drugs that prevent blood clotting.