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Researchers discuss health benefits of tea at first international Tea Symposium.

Researchers discuss health benefits of tea at first international Tea Symposium

Medical researchers and health professionals representing a variety of specialties attended a two-day symposium on the health benefits of tea, the first international scientific conference ever held on this subject.

Speakers include scientists from the U.S., Japan, China, Norway and British Columbia, who described a growing body of research on potential protective effects of tea in the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease. In addition, the role of tea in fluid balance and renal disease was addressed.

"This is an interesting area that hasn't been looked at previously from a clinical and public health nutrition perspective," said George Christakis, M.D., M.P.H., the conference chairman. "When you consider that besides water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, it becomes clear that the potential public health implications might be enormous."

Among the presentations at the Tea Symposium were animal experiments by Dr. A.H. Conney of Rutgers University and Dr. Hirota Fujiki of the National Cancer Center Research Institute, Tokyo, suggesting that green tea might be protective against cancer.

In Dr. Fujiki's studies, Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) (a substance in green tea) inhibited the formation of skin tumors in mice. In these experiments, the mice had been exposed to tumor promoters typical of those that humans commonly encounter in everyday life. Dr. Conney and his colleagues found that administration of green tea to mice protected them from skin tumors caused by exposure to ultra violet light. EGCG is one of a class of chemicals called catechins.

John Weisburger, Ph.D., M.D., commented that although much more research is needed, these preliminary animal results are an encouraging sign that yet another common foodstuff may have unsuspected benefits in human health.

Henry Ginsberg, M.D., reviewed the evidence of association between tea and serum cholesterol levels. "From the epidemiologic data and the few clinical studies available, the evidence is strong that tea drinking is not associated with increased plasma cholesterol levels. There is also suggestive evidence that tea may lower cholesterol levels under certain experimental conditions," he said.

Dr. Ginsberg described the existing epidemiologic and clinical data as "intriguing." However, he cautioned that any cholesterol-lowering effect of tea remains to be proven.

Dr. Yukihiko Hara of the Mitsui Norin Co., Japan, discussed experiments in which tea catechins including EGCG reduced plasma total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in rats. In another set of experiments, catechins were able to lower blood pressure in rats, and the life span of stroke-prone animals was extended by supplementing with catechins.

Dr. Ginsberg advised caution in interpreting these results because "rats and mice are poor models of atherosclerosis and hyperlipidemia" and said future research is needed to determine the effects of tea in human atherosclerosis.

The conference, entitled "Physiological and Pharmacological Effects of Camellia Sinensis (Tea)," was presented by the American Health Foundation, the Tea Council of the U.S.A. and the Tea Association of the U.S.A.

It was organized to raise professional awareness of the potential health benefits of tea and to encourage additional research in this area.

Health Benefits of Tea

Tea has enjoyed a long history as the world's most popular beverage and has often been perceived as having gentle therapeutic effects.

Hot tea with lemon, for example, is a traditional folk remedy for colds and sore throats. Hot tea is also used to calm an upset stomach and relieve headaches. And, iced teas are viewed as "pick-me-ups" on hot summer days.

Today, scientific evidence suggests that some of the centuries-old human "hunches" have been correct and there are sound health reasons to drink tea.

Moreover, as scientists begin to understand the biochemical secrets behind many of the effects of tea, they are also discovering surprising new ways in which tea may contribute to good health.

Recently at the first international symposium on the physiological effects of tea in New York City, research was presented suggesting that an ingredient in green tea may help prevent cancer.

Another series of presentations focused on a potential relationship between tea and heart disease. Population studies have not found any association between tea drinking and increased risk of heart disease. In fact, laboratory experiments provide some suggestive evidence of a cholesterol-lowering effect of tea.

Moreover, in at least one group of animal experiments, ingredients in tea were able to reduce blood pressure and extend the life span of stroke-prone rats.

An important nutritional function of tea is that of maintaining fluid balance. The average adult needs about two quarts of water per day for basic life functions such as temperature regulation, blood circulation and digestion to proceed properly. Tea makes a valuable contribution to fluid balance because of its versatility, absence of harm and potential benefits.

Nutritionally, tea is a good source of fluoride and manganese. The roles of these nutrients--such as fluoride in the prevention of dental caries and manganese in protein and energy metabolism--are well known.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Physiological Effects of Camellia Sinensis Tea conference in New York, New York
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:Coffee, a stimulant drink.
Next Article:Japan: coffee consumption still rising.

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