Tea and Health   (Why Tea???)

Tea is not just a drink, it’s a healthy lifestyle
Today, people believe that tea posses a wide range of pharmaceutical properties such as:

  • combats heart diseases and reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol
  • can be an anti-carcinogenic
  • is antibacterial
  • improves oral health
  • promotes effective digestion
  • stimulates central nervous system
  • combats fatigue and anxiety
  • strengthens immune system and improves longevity
  • helps to lose weight

Until today not all of the above effects can be explained conclusively, however some have been scientifically proved while some are based on historical experience.

 

Tea Facts

The three main chemical compounds in tea are: caffeine, essential oils and polyphenols. 
The caffeine is responsible for the refreshing effect of tea.
The oils are responsible for the aroma.  The oils along with the aroma can be evaporated if the tea is not properly kept. 
Polyphenols are responsible for the colour, for the taste and above all for the health benefits of tea. Polyphenoles contain common antioxidants called flavonoids and catechins.

Flavonoids

Flavonoids are a class of water-soluble plant pigments and it is the catechin called Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in Green Tea that is particularly beneficial. EGCG has very strong antioxidant properties. 
EGCG is the main active component in Green Tea leaves. EGCG possess the most potent antioxidant activity of the catechins. ECGC may provide health effects by protecting our cells from oxidative damage from free radicals. ECGC can protect the DNA in the human cells from ultraviolet and visible radiation-induced damage. ECGC may be effective in promoting fat oxidation and lowering body weight.

Caffeine

It is well known that tea helps to combat fatigue. Caffeine in tea is responsible for these effects:

  • stimulates the central nervous system, which results in high level of concentration and increased alertness.
  • stimulates the cardiac muscle without raising blood pressure
  • has a diuretic effect
  • stimulates the respiratory system
  • increases energy

Tea leaves contain about 5% caffeine. The longer the fermentation of the tea takes the higher the caffeine content. Thus general speaking green tea posses the least caffeine while black tea contains the most. 
Caffeine in tea has different impact on human body compared to caffeine in coffee.  Caffeine in coffee is absorbed quickly into the blood circulation, stimulates the heart, and causes increased heartbeat and blood pressure. Caffeine in tea is slower to be absorbed by the human body and stimulates the central nervous system.  
It is suggested that people with heart diseases, pregnant women should avoid caffeine intake.

Tea and your heart

Recent research has shown the following:

  • Anti-oxidants may have curative properties that inhibit the development of heart disease and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack
  • Tea flavonoids increase coronary flow and promote healthy blood vessel functionality
  • Consuming tea lowers cholesterol levels.

In 2004 a study in China (Yang YC, Lu FH, Wu JS, Wu CH, Chang CJ.) showed habitual consumption of moderate strength Green or Oolong Tea for 1 year, significantly reduces the risk of developing High Blood Pressure (hypertension) in the Chinese population.

Tea and Cancer

As mentioned above, tea contains a great amount of powerful antioxidants called flavonoids (sub group of the polyphenols) with anti-carcinogenic properties. The majority of current research is focused around cancer as it is thought that the antioxidant components of tea, and in particular Green Tea, can help to prevent cancer by combating the dangerous free radicals and inhibiting uncontrolled cell growth. That means that tea is not a cure for cancer but it inhibits the formation or action of cancer causing substances.

Scientific findings suggest that Green Tea may prevent the following types of cancer in humans; Skin, Lung, Stomach, Colon, Pancreas, Bladder, Prostate, Oral and Oesophageal.

 

Tea as a Germicide

Some studies indicate that tea acts as a mild germicide. In the digestive tract it helps fight food poisoning and diseases like cholera, typhoid, and dysentery. Tea is used in China to disinfect cuts and abrasions and to cure skin disease. In China tea extract in a medicine is successfully used to counteract the loss of white blood cells through radiation therapy. 
The polyphenols possess anti-biotic properties and work in different ways:

  • they increase white blood cells which fight infections
  • they obstruct the growth of certain virus (e.g. the influenza virus)
  • they fight bacteria especially in the stomach and bowel region
  • they act as a fungicide (for example when tea extract is applied on the outside)

Oral health

Tea is rich in many nutrients, including a number that are good for the teeth and gums. Tea contains relatively high amounts of fluoride. It strengthens the tooth enamel which protects the teeth from decay. Two to three cups of tea per day (especially green tea) cover most of the needed fluoride for an adult. 

The above mentioned polyphenols reduce the growth of plaque-forming bacteria. The bacteria feed on a simple form of sugar and the tea inhibits the conversion from carbohydrates we eat into these forms of sugar.

Stomach and Digestion

Modern diets tend to be rather sour food like meat, bakery products, nuts and sour beverages. Too much acid can cause heartburn.  Because of its alkaline nature, tea is a powerful remedy against high stomach acidity and helps restore the chemical balance in our stomach. This is also the reason why tea helps to prevent gastritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach lining caused by high acidity.  
Apart from skin and stomach our body should be slightly alkaline to function properly.

Longevity and Aging

In China, tea was always an ingredient of immortality potions which claimed to prolong a healthy life. 
The Polyphenols in tea have been shown to help increase the white blood cell count, which is responsible for fighting infection. The high vitamin C content found primarily in Green Tea also helps to strengthen the immune system.
Aging is the accumulation of damaged body cells which do not function properly anymore. Potent antioxidants like vitamins and polyphenols are abundant in tea and can slow down the process of aging. 

To combat Obesity and over-weight

Did you know that drinking tea can help you lose weight and when taken without milk contains no calories?  A substance called Saponine in the tea breaks down and binds fat and prevents it from getting into the blood circulation. The leaves of tea plant are thermogenic and thus tea can increase your metabolism without raising the heart rate.  Tea also suppresses the feeling of hunger and reduces the appetite for heavy or sweet food which often is the cause for being overweight. 
 
That does not mean that drinking tea alone will get you the ideal weight! Tea can only be part of a change of food and habits in order to lose weight. Pu-Erh and Oolong teas are especially renowned for their slimming effects.

 

Arthritis

Research funded by The Arthritis Research Campaign, has shown that regular consumption of Green Tea will help protect against the onset on Arthritis. Two compounds, EGCG (epigallocatchin gallate) and ECG (epicatechin gallate) can help prevent osteoarthritis by blocking the enzyme that destroys cartilage as well as reducing swelling and pain.

Combating Anxiety and Stress

Tea contains a unique amino acid, L-theanine. Studies show that L-theanine may promote relaxation and calmness by influencing particular chemicals in the brain. Researchers discovered that L-theanine is derivative of glutamic acid, a neurotransmitter located in the brain. Absorbed by the brain, it influences chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which are mood affecting.
Studies show that this amino acid enhances overall concentration and focus. The effect of L-theanine in combination with caffeine, depending on the type of tea, may contribute to the feeling of increased energy

The Nutritional Value of Tea

In addition to valuable antioxidant properties and contributing to our daily fluid intake target of 2.5 litres, tea contains many vitamins, minerals and amino acids that includes
Vitamins: C, K, B12, B6 and E 
Minerals: Trace amounts of potassium, manganese, magnesium, calcium 
Amino Acids: Tea is a strong source of amino acids including L-theanine. 
Tea is not just a drink, but a healthy lifestyle.  We are only beginning to discover the benefits of regularly taking tea, and research will continue to discover new and exciting benefits to the wonderful leaf. Needless to say by regularly drinking tea we are doing wonders for our bodies whilst relaxing the mind.

The research on green tea

The health benefits of green tea have been extensively researched and, as the scientific community's awareness of its potential benefits has increased, so have the number of new studies. As of November 2004, the PubMed database contained more than 1,000 studies on green tea, with more than 400 published in 2004! The latest studies provide a deeper understanding of the ways in which green tea:

 - Protects against Death from All Causes, Especially Cardiovascular Disease
 - Protects against Coronary Artery Disease
 - Inhibits Atherosclerosis
 - Special Benefits for Persons with High Triglycerides
 - Thins the Blood and Helps Prevent Blood Clots
 - Protects the Heart in Patients with Acute Cardiovascular Disease
 - Minimizes Damage and Speeds Recovery after a Heart Attack
 - Minimizes Damage to the Brain after a Stroke
 - Lowers Blood Pressure and Helps Prevent Hypertension
 - Helps Prevent the Development of Atherosclerosis and Cancer
 - Protects against Cancer
 - Regular Green Tea Drinking Cuts Colorectal Cancer Risk in Half