You can fight chronic illnesses a cup at a time
Research has long shown the antioxidant properties and health benefits of tea, but new findings suggest it also may have significant preventative properties against chronic disease.
The findings were discussed Wednesday at the Fifth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health in Washington, D.C.
"If there's anything that can confidently be communicated to the public, it's the ability of tea to be associated and demonstrated in the primary prevention of chronic disease," says meeting chairman Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor in Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.
One of those is osteoporosis. Green tea in particular may help reduce the risk for fractures and improve bone mass, suggests a study by researchers at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. "Osteoporosis is a non-curable disease, and prevention is key," says Chwan-Li "Leslie" Shen, associate professor of pathology.
In a six-month trial of 171 postmenopausal women with low bone mass, the women improved bone formation when they consumed 500mg of green tea polyphenol capsules a day, equivalent to four to six cups of tea, alone or in conjunction with tai chi exercises.
Green tea promoted bone remodeling within three months and reduced oxidative stress damage, Shen says. "Bone loss can be slowed. You can slow the progression. You can delay the onset of osteoporosis."
Among other preventative properties of tea reported were in cardiovascular health. A small study of 19 people with hypertension and 19 without found that drinking just one cup of black tea before a high-fat meal supported healthy arterial function and prevented negative effects on blood pressure.
"Black tea may induce a protective effect by not only reducing blood pressure but also reducing the negative action of the fat load on the arteries," says researcher Claudio Ferri of the University L'Aquila in Italy. Flavonoids, which induce dilation of the arteries, are the most important component in tea, he says. Drinking black tea could lead to a reduction in strokes, heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases, he adds.
Among other updated findings:
Drinking green tea can help burn up to 100 calories a day, through increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation, found researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
Tea drinkers experienced better task performance and alertness in a study by Unilever R&D in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands.
Flavonoids in green and black tea can provide a probiotic effect in the lower gastrointestinal tract, found Alan Crozier, professor at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
"Many people aren't getting as many flavonoids as they need to," Blumberg says. "Another way to get them is tea."
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