Every day it seems that we hear about another study that points to the health benefits of tea. Studies claim that tea helps in the areas of aging, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, bone health, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, liver function, weight loss and more. Tons of these studies point to polyphenols – – a major component in tea – – as a strong anti-cancer agent. It is also reported to be helpful in lowering cholesterol levels.
Other studies also agree that teas heavy in antioxidants help protect the human body from free radical damage. Oolong tea, in particular, is believed to be helpful with type two diabetes. Still more studies point to tea’s assistance in deterring allergies, bad breath, and dermatological issues.
Tea is a drink that a lot of people consume regularly. It is, in fact, the second most commonly consumed beverage, behind water. This is considered particularly good for those that subscribes to the theory that tea is actually as healthy as good old H2O.
The debate rages on about which tea or tea blends may be the most beneficial. However, green tea seems to lead the pack in most studies. The Chinese have reported the medicinal benefits of this type of tea for hundreds of years. They continue to use it to treat a wide variety of maladies. While those of us in the west may be a little slower at catching on to things, we eventually do. Dozens of studies now appear to back up what the Chinese have always known to be true.
The secret of green tea’s health benefits appears to lie within the tea leaves themselves. They are rich in catechin polyphenols; in particular, the anti-oxidant, epigallocaterchin gallate (EGCG). These ingredients may hold the key to a powerful disease inhibitor; perhaps even a disease destroyer.
In 1994, a study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported “the drinking of green tea reduces the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly 60 percent.” Another study – – by the University of Purdue – – concluded that green tea may, in some instances, help “inhibit the growth of cancer cells.” Some also believe that it can help to kill certain cancer cells. Other studies get even more specific.
According to the Center of Human Nutrition at UCLA’s School of Medicine in 2004, “green and black tea can slow down the spread of prostate cancer. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, in its “Carcinogenesis” report of 2003, says “green tea and white tea fight colon cancer.” A UCLA Public Health study in 2001 reported that “green tea consumption may lower stomach cancer risk.” Another 2004 Mayo Clinic reported that “a component of green tea helps kill leukemia cells.”
According to the Journal of Nutrition, 2003, green tea “helps to lower cholesterol levels.” The USDA, in a 2003 report, goes so far as to suggest that it assists in improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol. Additionally, it inhibits the abnormal formation of blood clots. This is an important point to make considering that the formation of blood clots is believed to be the leading cause of heart attack and strokes.
Other studies point to green tea’s benefit in easing rheumatoid arthritis, as well as in fighting infection and helping to strengthen an impaired immune system. A 1999 study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that green tea may also be effective in helping dieters burn more calories; hence the myriad of green tea diet aids now on the market.
Tea is also a wonderful source for certain types of vitamins and minerals. It contains fluoride, which is helpful in preventing tooth decay. It also contains manganese and potassium, as well as the valuable vitamins thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, nicotinic acid, and pantothenic acid.
The question remains, however, as to why some teas are better than others. This is more difficult to answer. After all green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinenis plant. So why is green tea healthier, overall? As it turns out, the difference lies within the processing method of the tea leaves. Green tea leaves are steamed. This process keeps the EGCG compound from being oxidized. Black and oolong teas, on the other hand, are partially dried, crushed and fermented. The EGCG unfortunately gets converted in the process, thus cutting its health effectiveness. White tea, which is plucked just as the tealeaf begins to mature, has the highest amount of antioxidants.
Obviously, freshly brewed teas are likely to have higher concentrates of polyphenol antioxidants than instant, bottled, or otherwise processed teas. Caffeinated tea is also believed to be higher in positive components (polyphenols and ECGC) than decaffeinated teas. Herbal tea, on the other hand, is sometimes just an infusion of herbs, flowers, roots, spices, and parts of other plants. Read labels carefully to make certain that there is actually “tea” in your herbal tea.
Another great thing about tea is that, to date, the only negative side effect I could find reported are cases of insomnia. And, in truth, those cases related more to the amount of caffeine taken in rather than to the actual tea itself.
If you like tea, now is a good a time to indulge in your favorite beverage. There is a huge cross-section of flavorful teas now available on the market. There is literally something to fit just about anyone’s taste. See my article “Put Some Flavorful Tea Leaves in Your Life” at http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/214431/put_some_flavorful_tea_leaves_in_your.html.