Tea Chi

By staff May 1, 2003

Forget everything you've read about the dangers of caffeine, at least in tea. Apparently, the favored beverage of many Asian cultures and most of America may have been getting a bad rap all these years.

Sure, it can stain your teeth and leave you wide-eyed and bushy-tailed if you drink caffeinated tea too late at night, but evidence is growing that it has substantial health benefits as well.

According to the Lancet medical journal, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston have found no association between caffeine and heart disease. Instead, the heart attack risk in people who drank one or more cups of tea per day was about half that of those who drank no tea at all. The researchers did find that caffeinated black tea seemed to have the best effect-herbal teas had the least.

Also in Lancet, a study from researchers in Hong Kong, Australia and China gives some indication as to why cardiovascular disease in China is about one-fifth that of the West. They believe diet plays some role, since Chinese populations consume large quantities of antioxidants that are found in green tea. Apparently, the flavanoids found in green tea help protect arteries.

Meanwhile, Israeli researchers have discovered that a compound in green tea protects against two different kinds of Parkinson's disease, at least in rodents. Human clinical trials are up next.

And finally, another compound found in this brew may prevent skin cancer. The compound, epigallocatechin gallate, is being tested in topical creams that may be used much as a sunscreen to prevent skin cancers in the future.

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