The Healthy Mystique of Tea

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As we endure the chill of winter, few things soothe like a hot cup of tea. There’s a certain mystique about tea—perhaps because it is an age old, highly revered drink, sacred in many cultures. Did you know that all tea comes from a single plant, the Camellia sinensis? Many Americans are only just beginning to learn about the infinite attributes of tea. Here are 5 important reasons to enjoy a cup today:

Cardiovascular Health

Since February is American Heart Month, tea should be the celebrated beverage as both green and black tea reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease1 and stroke due to the rich levels of flavonoids they contain.2 Tea also cuts your risk of arteriosclerosis by preventing free radical damage of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol through the action of polyphenols called catechins.3

Blood Pressure & Cholesterol Reduction

Currently, around 43 million adult Americans have high blood pressure, also called hypertension,4 with 1.6 billion people expected to develop it worldwide by the year 2025.5 Numerous studies suggest that green tea may provide protection against hypertension—“the silent killer”—and reduce stroke risk5 while also lowering cholesterol.6 That’s worthy of applause!

Cancer Prevention
Epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate—EGCG for short—is the main component of white and green tea. In terms of cancer, EGCG seems to be the most protective polyphenol.7 EGCG appears to trap carcinogens as well as block the growth of cancer cells.8 Daily green tea consumption may help prevent prostate and breast cancer.9 EGCG accomplishes this both by helping to prevent cancer tumors from developing and by slowing their progression once started.10

Brain Protection
L-theanine—an amino acid in tea—is thought to give tea its umami or “5th taste.” But that’s not all. It has also been shown to significantly reduce oxidative damage in the brain and boost memory. As such, tea rich l-theanine may be useful in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.11 Theanine also enhances cognition—the ability to think—along with other brain-protective effects.12

Weight Loss
Green tea helps to prevent weight gain through thermogenesis—fat burning—and by helping to protect valuable, metabolism-boosting lean muscle mass.13 One study showed that green tea reduced both body weight and fat,14 while another suggested that it discourages weight gain and even counteracts that frustrating metabolic slow down—or plateau—that occurs during weight loss.15 Tea may also minimize overeating caused by stress and tension, as l-theanine significantly relaxes the mind while you remain alert.16

As amazing as all this sounds, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for studies on the health benefits of tea. And all you have to do is enjoy it! Hot or iced, chilled as a “sports drink,” or mixed with juice or sparkling water, this age old elixir will serve you well indeed.

1 Mol Aspects Med. 2010 Dec;31(6):495-502
2 Am Fam Physician. 2010 Jul 1;82(1):17; author reply 17
3Biol Pharm Bull. 2002 Dec;25(12):1513-8
5 Nutr Rev. 2008 May;66(5):291-7
6 Prev Med. 2009 Aug-Sep;49(2-3):83-7
7 Am Fam Physician. 2010 Jul 1;82(1):17; author reply 17
8 Forum Nutr. 2009;61:156-69
9 Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2009 Nov;1(3):182-92
10 Prev Med. 2009 Aug-Sep;49(2-3):83-7
11Arch Biochem Biophys. 2010 Sep 1;501(1):65-72
12 Free Radic Biol Med. 2009 Dec 1;47(11):1601-10
13 Brain Behav Immun. 2009 Aug;23(6):721-31
14 Physiol Behav. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):42-6
15 Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1195-204
16 Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Jan;292(1):R77-85
16 Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8.

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