Health Benefits of Tea
Tea contains catechins, a type of antioxidant. In a freshly picked tea leaf, catechins can compose up to 30% of the dry weight. Catechins are highest in concentration in white and green teas, while black tea has substantially fewer due to its oxidative preparation. Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has suggested that levels of antioxidants in green and black tea do not differ greatly, with green tea having an oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of 1253 and black tea an ORAC of 1128 (measured in µmolTE/100g). Tea has negligible carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Although tea contains various types of phenolics and tannin, tea does not contain tannic acid. Tannic acid is not an appropriate standard for any type of tannin analysis because of its poorly defined composition.
Theanine and caffeine
Tea also contains theanine and the stimulant caffeine at about 3% of its dry weight, translating to between 30 mg and 90 mg per 8 oz. (250 ml) cup depending on type, brand and brewing method. Tea also contains small amounts of theobromine and theophylline. Due to modern day environmental pollution fluoride and aluminum have also been found to occur in tea, with certain types of brick tea made from old leaves and stems having the highest levels. This occurs due to the tea plant's high sensitivity to and absorption of environmental pollutants. Dry tea has more caffeine by weight than coffee; nevertheless, more dried coffee is used than dry tea in preparing the beverage, which means that a cup of brewed tea contains significantly less caffeine than a cup of coffee of the same size.
Green tea catechins have also been shown to possess antibiotic properties due to their role in disrupting a specific stage of the bacterial DNA replication process.
An article in New Scientist magazine mentions that numerous studies suggest that green tea protects against a range of cancers, including lung, prostate and breast cancer. The reason cited is the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), according to Hirofumi Tachibana's team at Kyushu University. Their research showed that growth of human lung cancer cells with a cell receptor called 67 LR is slowed significantly after drinking just two or three cups of green tea, which contains EGCG. The research also showed that 67 LR is involved in the propagation of prion diseases such as human Creutzfeldt-Jakob (related to mad cow disease in animals). This is not direct evidence of tea's effect on prion diseases, but a hint that EGCG's effect on 67 LR is an interesting lead in the search for treatments.
White tea has been claimed to be more effective, based upon preliminary work by Santana-Rios et al.
Another study from the Life Science journal Carcinogenesis showed that green tea, in combination with tamoxifen, is effective in suppressing breast cancer growth in vitro human breast cancer tumors and in vivo animal experiments in mice. A study at Taiwan's Chung Shan Medical University found that people who drank at least one cup of green tea per day were five times less likely to develop lung cancer than those who did not.
The anticarcinogenic effect of green tea on gastric cancer was refuted by a large-scale, population-based, prospective cohort study in Japan that involved more than 26,000 residents. Several case control studies suggest an inverse relation between green tea consumption and gastric cancer. Further evaluation is needed to assess the role of green tea and gastric cancer reduction.
Topical applications of green tea extracts (EGCG) have protective effects on UVA- and UVB-induced skin damage (photo aging and carcinogenesis).
In a July 2005 review of claims made about the health benefits of green tea, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that it was highly unlikely that green tea reduces the risk of breast and prostate cancer. The FDA believes that the evidence does not support qualified health claims for green tea consumption and a reduced risk of cancer.
Increased Metabolic Rate
Clinical trials conducted by the University of Geneva and the University of Birmingham indicate that green tea raises metabolic rates, speeds up fat oxidation and improves insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance. In addition to caffeine, green tea contains catechin phenolics that raise thermogenesis (the production of heat by the body), and hence increases energy expenditure.
There is also a suggestion that it can increase endurance in exercise by improving fat metabolism.
Possible Anti-Diabetes Effect
There is also epidemiological evidence that drinking green tea and black tea may help prevent diabetes, although it is worth noting that this is evidence of an association, and that future studies are needed to confirm the effect.
Enhanced Mental Alertness
The amino acid L-theanine, found almost exclusively in the tea plant, and in the highest doses in green tea, actively alters the attention networks of the brain, according to results of human trials announced in September 2007. It has been proposed that theanine is absorbed by the small intestine and crosses the blood-brain barrier, where it affects the brain's neurotransmitters and increases alpha brain-wave activity. The result is a calmer, yet more alert, state of mind.
Enhanced Immune System
On 21 April 2003 the Brigham and Women's Hospital released details of a research project which indicated that theanine may help the body's immune system response when fighting infection, by boosting the disease-fighting capacity of gamma delta T cells. The study included a four-week trial with 11 coffee drinkers and 10 tea drinkers, who consumed 600ml of coffee or black tea daily. Blood sample analysis found that the production of anti-bacterial proteins was up to five times higher in the tea-drinkers, an indicator of a stronger immune response.
Lowered Chance of Cognitive Impairment
A 2006 study showed that elderly Japanese people who consumed more than 2 cups of green tea a day had a 50 percent lower chance of having cognitive impairment, in comparison to those who drank fewer than 2 cups a day, or who consumed other tested beverages. This is probably due to the effect of EGCG, which passes through the blood-brain barrier.
In 2010 researchers found that people who consumed tea had significantly less cognitive decline than non-tea drinkers. Study participants who drank tea 5-10 times/year, 1-3 times/month, 1-4 times/week, and 5+ times/week had average annual rates of decline 17%, 32%, 37%, and 26% lower, respectively, than non-tea drinkers. Coffee consumption did not show any effect except at the very highest level of consumption, where it was associated with significantly decreased decline of 20 percent. The study used data on more than 4,800 men and women aged 65 and older from the Cardiovascular Health Study to examine change in cognitive function over time. Study participants were followed for up to 14 years for naturally-occurring cognitive decline. (AAICAD 2010; Lenore Arab, PhD; UCLA)
Lowered Stress Hormone Levels
According to a study by researchers at University College London, drinking black tea can lead to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after a stressful event. Fifty minutes after being subjected to challenging tasks, subjects who had been drinking 4 cups of black tea daily for 6 weeks, had a 20% greater drop in cortisol than the placebo group. Blood platelet activation, which is linked to blood clotting and the risk of heart attacks was also lower for tea drinkers.
Effects on HIV
A recent study appearing in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology was the subject of an article on BBC News. It stated that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) found in green tea can lead to the inhibition of HIV binding and may be used as a complementary therapy for HIV patients, but qualified it by noting that "It is not a cure, and nor is it a safe way to avoid infection, however, we suggest that it should be used in combination with conventional medicines to improve quality of life for those infected." It was an in vitro (test tube) study, not an in vivo study, which only tested effects of a chemical in green tea. "Many substances shown to prevent HIV infection in the test tube turn out to have little or no effect in real life, so I think there's a long way to go before anyone should rely on green tea to protect against HIV infection."
Effects on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
The phenolics in green tea have been shown to reduce intestinal inflammation in mouse models of IBD. This effect seems to be related to tea’s ability to interrupt the cascade of inflammatory reactions that are the cause of IBD.
Effects on Bad Breath
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago stated that tea phenolics help inhibit the growth of bacteria that cause bad breath.
Iron Overload Disorders
Researchers in Germany have found that a daily cup of black tea can help stop excess iron damaging the bodies of people who suffer from hemochromatosis due to its high content of flavonoids (commonly mistaken for tannins), which limit iron absorption.
Effects Associated with Caffeine
Main article: Health effects of caffeine
A cup of green tea contains between 15 and 50 mg of caffeine. Certain cognitive benefits are associated with caffeine consumption, such as a reduction in the likelihood of Parkinson's disease and a temporary increase in short term memory. Further, caffeine consumption has been linked with greater athletic performance, healthy weight loss, reduction in duration and severity of headaches and is effective in treating the symptoms of asthma.
Effects on Obstructive Sleep Apnea-related Brain Deficits
University of Louisville researchers report that green tea phenolics may stave off the cognitive deficits that occur with obstructive sleep apnea, in the second issue for May, 2008 of the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Researchers examined the effects of green tea phenolics administered through drinking water, on rats that were intermittently deprived of oxygen during 12-hour “night” cycles, mimicking the intermittent hypoxia that humans with OSA experience.
Effects on Bacterial and Fungal Infections
A study at Pace University reported in American Society For Microbiology (May 2008) found white tea extracts effective at treating bacterial infections, such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, pneumonia and dental caries. White tea was also found to be effective in treating fungal infections from Penicillium chrysogenum and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Researchers also reported that white tea extracts showed a greater effect than green tea extracts.
Antivenin activity of melanin extracted from black tea (MEBT) was reported for the first time in 2004. Low toxicity of MEBT in combination with its antagonistic activity against different venoms may allow effective life-saving treatment against snakebites. Such application of MEBT is important when identification of the snake is impossible or if specific treatment is unavailable.
Research conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and presented at the International Stroke Conference in February 2009 found that drinking three or more cups of either green or black tea per day can reduce the risk of suffering a stroke by as much as 21%.
Research published in April 2009 by the University of L'Aquila and funded by the Unilever-owned Lipton Institute of Tea suggests that drinking just one cup of regular, black tea per day may help to protect against cardiovascular disease. The research showed that black tea consumption does—depending on dose—improve blood vessel reactivity, reduce both blood pressure and arterial stiffness, indicating a notably better cardiovascular health profile.
Sinecatechin, an extract from green tea, was shown to be effective in treating anogenital warts in a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial of greater than 500 subjects. The subjects applied a topical ointment containing either sinecatechin or placebo to the affected area for up to 4 months, and were followed for 3 months after treatment. More than half of the subjects in the treatment group (57%) experienced a complete resolution of their warts, compared with a third (34%) in the control group. 78% of the patients in the treatment group experienced at least 50% improvement in their warts. The number needed to treat was 4-5 patients. The green tea extract treatment was well-tolerated, with relatively few side-effects.
In a Japanese study, green tea consumption was inversely associated with psychological distress even after adjustment for possible confounding factors.
A more frequent consumption of green tea was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in another Japanese study. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study in 1,058 community-dwelling elderly Japanese individuals 70 years of age. The prevalence of mild and severe depressive symptoms was 34.1 percent and 20.2 percent, respectively. After adjustment for confounding factors, the odds ratios for mild and severe depressive symptoms when higher green tea consumption was compared with green tea consumption of 1 cup/d were: 2 to 3 cups green tea/d and 4 cups green tea/d. Similar relations were also observed in the case of severe depressive symptoms.
One study shows that green tea reduced the severity of rheumatoid arthritis in rats; however another study shows that tea increases the risk for rheumatoid arthritis by 78% for heavy drinkers and by 40% for occasional drinkers.
Weight Loss and Cholesterol
Green tea and its extract have been shown to fight obesity and lower LDL "bad" cholesterol—two risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. One study in the Netherlands and a study in Japan showed that green tea did both. In the Dutch study, participants who drank caffeinated green tea lost more weight, but even those who typically drank the decaf variety saw a decrease in their waistlines and body weight. Researchers speculated that the caffeine helps with fat oxidation. In the Japanese study, 240 men and women were given varying amounts of green tea extract for three months. Those who got the highest amount lost fat and weight and had lower blood pressure and lower LDL "bad" cholesterol.
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