Research Finds Black Tea May Aid the Body's Defenses Against Bacteria and Viruses


NEW YORK -- Experts anticipate the winter of 2004 to be a bad year for the flu, but aside from getting a flu shot and increasing the frequency of handwashing, people are asking what can be done nutritionally to give their immune system an added boost. One answer is to drink plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated, and drinking a cup of hot tea may contribute even more than just hydration.

Recent research findings have reported that drinking black tea may improve the body's defenses and quicken the response to bacteria and viruses -- giving people more of a reason to brew a hot cup of tea this month in celebration of National Hot Tea Month -- and possibly ward off germs.

The study, published in the May 13, 2003 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that participants who drank 20 ounces (the equivalent of approximately three cups) of black tea per day produced five times the amount of certain germ-fighting immune cells as those who drank the same amount of coffee. Researchers predict that these findings suggest that tea drinkers may have a better chance of fighting off an infection than non-tea drinkers because of this increased immune response, though further research will be needed to confirm their predictions.

In addition to this research, volumes have been published about the potential health benefits of tea, which contains flavonoids, substances that may act as antioxidants to reduce oxidative damage in the body and help maintain healthy cells and tissues. A multitude of research studies point to drinking tea as a way to promote health and potentially reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease and certain types of cancer.

This body of credible research grows every day. Here are a few recent findings about the potential health benefits of tea:

* New clinical research published in the October 2003 Journal of

Nutrition found that consuming 30 oz. of black tea daily -- the fluid

equivalent of 2.5 cans of soda -- reduced Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL,

or "bad") cholesterol levels by more than 10 percent in mildly

hypercholesterolemic adult study participants.

* According to a recent study published in Circulation: Journal of the

American Heart Association, study participants who drank four cups of

tea per day had significantly lower risk of death following a heart

attack -- a decrease of up to 44 percent.

* A Dutch study published in the May 2002 issue of the American Journal

of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) found that the incidence of myocardial

infarction or heart attack decreased by 43 percent in the study

participants who drank more than three cups of black tea per day.

* More good news on the protection of heavy smokers from oxidative damage

by tea drinking was published in the October 2003 Journal of Nutrition.

The clinical intervention study found that heavy smokers who consumed

four servings per day of green tea had 31 percent lower levels of

8-OHdG (a biomarker for oxidative damage to DNA) in white blood cells.

Oxidative damage to DNA is one factor which increases cancer risk and

the researches suggest that a significant reduction of DNA damage found

with green tea drinking may help reduce cancer risk in smokers.

* Another study, published in the July 2003 issue of Annals of

Epidemiology, examining the protective nature of black tea against

rectal cancer found that women who drank the equivalent of 2.5 cups of

tea per day or more had a 60 percent drop in rectal cancer risk, as

compared to women who drank less than 1.2 cups of tea per day.

"Research continually illustrates the potential for flavonoid-rich tea to contribute to healthful dietary patterns in a significant way," said Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and chief of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

Source: Tea Council of the USA

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