The Healing Power of Tea

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Why You Should Drink Tea

It may protect against heart disease. One U.S. study found that a low-fat diet plus five cups of tea per day lowered LDL ("bad") cholesterol 11 percent in three weeks. And Dutch researchers found that drinking more than four cups of black tea per day lowered the risk of atherosclerosis (arterial plaque buildup that can lead to heart disease) by more than 60 percent. Even one to two cups a day lowered the risk by 46 percent.

It may prevent cancer. Tea may lower the risk of cancers of the colon, rectum, urinary tract, stomach, pancreas, mouth and, perhaps, ovaries; in smokers it might reduce lung-cancer risk, too. And if you spend a lot of time in the sunlight, drinking strong, hot black tea may protect you from squamous-cell skin cancer, according to a University of Arizona study.

It boosts immunity. Drinking at least five cups of black tea a day for two to three weeks increased production of a key immune protein, interferon, in a Harvard study. The reason? L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea (and hardly anywhere else), can build the body's defenses against viruses and bacteria.

It may sharpen your brain. Tea seems both to boost your powers of concentration and relax you. Again, L-theanine is key: When people in a City College of the City University of New York study drank four or five cups of tea, effects showed up in 20 minutes and lasted three to four hours. Compare that with coffee, which gives you a quick jolt and heightens concentration but doesn't relax you, says study author John Foxe, PhD.

It can strengthen bones. Drinking tea may slow the bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis. Australian researchers found that over four years, older women tea drinkers lost an average of 1.6 percent of their bone density; non-tea drinkers lost 4 percent.

It may stave off Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In the lab, an antioxidant in green tea called EGCG helped protect brain cells from these two diseases. And when Israeli researchers gave mice EGCG equivalent to a human drinking at least two daily cups of green tea, it seemed to keep brain cells from dying. It also cut compounds that lead to brain damage in animals. These effects need to be shown in humans, but for now, drinking green tea won't hurt.

It can prevent cavities. Tea contains fluoride, which may explain why it seems to be good for teeth. In test tubes, tea extract inhibits cavity-causing bacteria. And in England, 14-year-olds who drank tea (with or without sugar) had fewer cavities than teens drinking sodas and other sweet drinks. Healthier isn't whiter, of course: Like coffee, tea can stain teeth, so brush frequently and have teeth professionally cleaned.

 
Continued on page 3:  Reading the Tea Leaves

 

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