You can fight chronic illnesses a cup at a time by Yagana Shah USA TODAY
Research has long shown the antioxidant properties and health
benefits of drinking tea, but new findings suggest that tea may
also have significant preventative properties against chronic
Recent findings were discussed Wednesday at the Fifth
International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health in
"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 chair
Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor in Friedman School of Nutrition
Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston.
One of those is osteoporosis, the "brittle bone" disease. Green
tea in particular may help reduce the risk for fractures and
improve bone mass, a leading health concern as people age, suggests
a study by researchers at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences
Center. "Osteoporosis is a non-curable disease and prevention is
key," said Chwan-Li "Leslie" Shen, associate professor of
In a six-month trial of 171 postmenopausal women with low bone
mass, researchers found participants had improvements in bone
formation by consuming 500 mg of green tea polyphenol capsules a
day, the equivalent of four to six cups of tea, alone or in
conjunction with practicing tai chi. Tai chi is a gentle form of
exercise based on Chinese martial arts.
Green tea promoted bone remodeling within three months of
consumption and reduced oxidative stress damage, Shen said. "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 the
area of cardiovascular health. A small study of 19 people with
hypertension and 19 people without found that drinking just one cup
of black tea before consuming a high-fat meal supported healthy
arterial function and prevented negative effects on blood
"It is evident that the ingestion of black tea may be able to
induce a protective effect by not only reducing blood pressure but
also reducing the negative action of the fat load on the arteries,"
said researcher Claudio Ferri, director of Internal Medicine at the
University L'Aquila, Italy. Flavonoids, which induce dilation of
the arteries, are the most important component in tea, Ferri said.
Consumption of black tea could lead to a reduction in strokes,
heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases, he said.
"If we were able to reduce blood pressure just slightly and shift
the entire population to a lower blood pressure, that has a
significant public health impact in terms of reduced numbers of
(people with) hypertension and of course the consequences for
cardiovascular disease. Small, modest, long-term benefits on blood
pressure can be quite important on the public health point of
view," Blumberg said.
Additional findings were also presented, building on previous
-- Consumption of green tea and caffeine can help burn up to 100
more calories a day, through increased energy expenditure and fat
oxidation, according to researchers at Maastricht University, the
-- Tea drinkers experienced better task performance and
alertness in a placebo-controlled study conducted by Unilever
R&D, Vlaardingen, the Netherlands.
-- Flavonoids in green and black tea can provide a probiotic
effect in the lower gastrointestinal tract, according to Alan
Crozier, professor at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.
Tea's polyphenols, natural plant compounds, and flavonoids,
compounds in plant-based foods, are full of health benefits,
"There are a lot of flavonoids in fruits and vegetables. Many
people aren't getting as many flavonoids as they need to. Another
way to get them is tea."
"If you don't drink tea," Blumberg said, "you should start. It's
really delicious. It's convenient. ... It has zero calories."
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