Tea Keeps Hearts Healthy

Tea Keeps Hearts Healthy by Heart Healthy Living

Tea provides promising health benefits whether you sip it or cook with it.

If researchers are right, you could be a few sips-or bites-closer to a healthier, longer life. Studies have shown that regular tea consumption not only helps to prevent cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses, but it may also reduce the risk of stroke, obesity, arthritis, and diabetes.

Researchers know that tea leaves-black, green, oolong, and white-contain a potpourri of potentially beneficial plant compounds called flavonoids. A large body of research indicates that flavonoids, also found in color-rich fruits and vegetables, have antioxidant effects that protect the body from the effects of aging and help prevent chronic disease.

Tea, whether taken hot and steamy, cold and refreshing, or imaginatively infused into foods, has the power to keep hearts healthy. Current research shows that regular tea drinkers-those who drink three to five cups a day-have less heart disease and stroke, have lower cholesterol levels, and recover from heart attacks faster than non-regular tea drinkers.

Encouraged by tea's apparent ability to block fat and lower cholesterol absorption, researchers have begun to zero in on tea's potential to lower the risk of heart disease. Research on this front has been encouraging. A Boston-area study found that drinking one cup of tea or more per day reduced the risk of heart attack by a whopping 44 percent. Another study, completed in the Netherlands, revealed that people who drank four cups of tea daily had significantly less plaque buildup in their arteries than those who drank only one or two cups.

"Tea isn't a magic bullet," says Jack Bukowski, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, who has studied the health properties of tea. "It does have some amazing properties."

Start with a Few Cups a Day
How much tea should you drink to reap the benefits? "Two cups of brewed tea provide as many phytochemicals as one serving of vegetables," says Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., professor of Human Nutrition at Tufts University in Boston.

It is not, however, a substitute for fruits, vegetables, and juices. Instead, it offers a rich, fat-free, zero-calorie supplemental source of polyphenols that makes it a beneficial part of a healthy diet.

The American Dietetic Association recommends that people drink four to six cups of brewed tea a day to get health benefits. (This is equivalent to 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried leaves.)

Tea also may help curb your appetite. Unless you add milk or a sweetener, tea contains no calories. In a study conducted at the University of Chicago, scientists found that mice given specific green-tea polyphenols consumed 50 to 60 percent less food than mice that didn't get them. Although humans are not mice, one of the study's authors, Shutsung Liao, Ph.D., a professor of microbiology at the University of Chicago, expects to see similar results in people.

Drinking tea may boost your metabolism and help keep you slim, according to a report in the Journal of Nutrition. In one study, people who drank five 10-ounce servings of oolong tea for three days increased their energy expenditure (metabolism) by 3 percent more than people who drank water. That boost amounted to 67 calories per day. Over one year, that could add up to a 61⁄2-pound weight loss. The researchers believe that the polyphenols in tea may be responsible for stimulating the metabolism.

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