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More exciting tea studies continue to pour in. In recent months, the following discoveries have been reported:
Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, an antioxidant found in green tea is at least 100 times more effective than vitamin C and 25 times better than vitamin E at protecting cells and their genetic material, DNA, from damage believed to be linked to cancer, heart disease and other potentially life-threatening illnesses, according to research carried out at the University of Kansas Lawrence. The antioxidant has twice the antioxidant benefit of resveratrol, found in red wine. Green tea has another advantage over vitamin E in that excessive amounts of antioxidants found in water soluble green tea are excreted by the body, whilst the body absorbs and retains fat-based vitamins such as vitamin E, even at potentially harmful levels. The above research indicated that while EGCG is also present in black and oolong tea, there is less than half as much because green tea is steamed immediately after it is picked, which prevents the leaves from oxidizing, thus preserving the EGCG. By contrast, according to papers presented at the Second International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health in Washington DC, black tea as high in antioxidants as green tea. Taking milk in tea does not dilute the medical power of the antioxidants, which are released from the tea leaves within five minutes of brewing. To gain maximum benefit from black tea, therefore, it needs to be brewed traditionally in a pot and left for five minutes before pouring. Black tea is made by exposing the leaves to air, which turns them reddish brown and gives black tea its flavor. Green tea involves the least processing. Oolong tea is halfway between green and black in terms of processing Dr Yoshimasa Yamamoto, of Showa University in Japan, says green tea contains chemicals called catechins that "show strong antibacterial activity" against helicobacter, a bacterium which earlier this decade was discovered to be the cause of the majority of stomach ulcers. "The level required for such activity... is easily reached in the stomach after drinking a cup of green tea," he told the American Society of Microbiology's annual conference. And a Dutch team has found that garlic, even in low concentrations, especially when taken in conjunction with chemicals that reduce stomach acidity, also inhibits the growth of Helicobacter. The Tea Council of the USA has developed a glossary to explain terms related to substances found in tea: Phytochemicals: naturally occurring plant compounds, many of which are thought to play a role in decreasing the risk of cancer and heart disease and of boosting the immune system. Polyphenols: a broad class of antioxidant phytochemicals found throughout the plant kingdom. Flavonoids: a class of polyphenolic phytochemicals that are antioxidants. Flavonols: a group of flavonoids found in tea and many fruits and vegetables that are antioxidants. Cathechins: a group of antioxidant flavonoids also found in tea and some fruits. Examples include epicatechin and epigallocatechin gallate. Epigallocatechin gallate: the principal cathechin in green and black teas, and a strong antioxidant. It has been shown to reduce formation of lung, oesophageal and skin tumours in research. Theaflavins: black tea flavonoids produced from cathechins during tea manufacturing, and colored reddish orange. They are strong antioxidants and have proved in research to reduce oesophageal tumours and oxidative damage to lung tissue. Thearubigins: black tea flavonoids, which are brown and astringent, produced from cathechins during tea manufacturing. Gallic acid: a polyphenol in black and green tea with established antioxidant activity. Dr. Junshi Chen of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine in Beijing studied patients who had been diagnosed with precancerous oral lesions. Chen had one group of patients rinse their mouths with the components found in green and black tea. He also painted a mixture of tea and glycerin on the patients' lesions. After six months, the size of the lesions had declined in 38% of the treated group and increased in 3%; while the lesions decreased for 10% of the untreated patients and grew in 6%. There also were significant differences in the extent of DNA damage in the treated group and about a third less proliferation of pre-cancerous cells. The results suggest that other epithelial cancers might be similarly affected by treatment with tea. Tea might also play a role in retarding the development of lung cancer, according to studies by a researcher from the American Health Foundation of Valhalla, N.Y. The researcher, Fung-Lung Chung, found that consuming either black or green tea retarded the development of lung tumours in mice and rats.
Another study, conducted on humans by J.E. Klaunig of the Indiana University School of Medicine, found that black and green tea reduced the level of oxidative stress, particularly in smokers. Oxidative stress is cell damage associated with environmental factors, such as chemicals, heavy metals and ultraviolet light.
Apparently decaffeinated tea has most, if not all, of the active chemical components that appear to be acting as antioxidants in tea. When EGCG from green tea is added to sulindac, the mixture was found to be two to eight times more effective in killing lung cancer cells than sulindac alone, according to Japanese Cancer Association. EGCG was also tested on tamoxifen, a drug used to treat breast cancer, and the compound was found to be twice as effective in killing the cells than the drug alone. In both cases the combined medication also reduced the risk of side effects. Research at Oregon State University, showed that drinking green and black tea inhibited the development of pre-cancerous lesions in the colons of rats. Other studies suggest similar effects in oesophageal and stomach cancer. A nutritional breakdown by experts at Britain's Tea Council suggests tea is a major source of the trace mineral manganese (needed for thyroid and sex hormone production as well as healthy bones) and a provider of potassium, vital for maintaining a normal heartbeat. Three or four cups per day, with milk, provides 16 per cent of the UK recommended intake of calcium, a tenth of our folic acid needs and a quarter of the vitamin B2 requirement. Tea is also one of the few natural dietary sources of fluoride which strengthens teeth. Research at Newcastle University suggested three cups a day can help prevent tooth decay in children.
In 1993, a Lancet report showed people with the highest intake of the anti- oxidant flavonoid had less than half the risk of dying of coronary heart disease than people with the lowest consumption. And a Dutch study suggested drinking five cups a day could cut the risk of suffering a stroke by up to 70 per cent.
The results of a recent Australian Government research project indicated that mice drinking green tea experienced an average reduction of 18 per cent in skin cancer, while those drinking black tea showed a reduction of 54 per cent. Tea drinking increases concentration and the ability to learn, according to research by Kimron Shapiro, a professor of psychology at the University of Wales. It is especially beneficial to people when they are doing two things at once and also helps them concentrate when they are performing one task after another. The research demonstrated that caffeine was not responsible because those drinking tea out-performed those given a caffeine-only drink. Britons drink 185 million cups of tea a day. Powdered and instant tea contains only small percentages of antioxidants compared with freshly brewed tea.