When it comes to tea, different people hold different views. Is
either brew superior?
A cup of green tea each day will ward off cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and signs of aging, according to some nutritionists, but the federal government claims the opposite. The opposing views leave some people scratching their heads over whether to drink the brewed concoction.
“I always hear it’s good for you, and then the next week they’re saying it’s not,” Jessica Costa said, while she was shopping for tea in Morgan Hill on Friday morning. “I guess I just drink it because I’m an optimist, and it can do more good than harm, right?”
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration looked at several studies conducted with patients of breast cancer and prostate cancer and, based on the research, concluded “it is highly unlikely that green tea reduces the risk of breast cancer.”
On the heels of the FDA’s ruling, a new study was released claiming that the tea, which the Japanese have sipped for centuries, can help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease and may slow the aging process.
According to the Journal of Neuroscience, an antioxidant found in green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) may prevent the buildup of plaque in the brain linked to the memory-robbing disease. Mice used in the study were given daily injections of EGCG. After several months, the nerve cells of treated mice generated as much as 54 percent fewer beta-amyloid proteins, which is the plaque that blocks memory in the brain.
Luis Garnica, an herbalist in Gilroy for eight years, strongly believes in the healing power of green tea. He said he’s had several customers who were fighting cancer and using the tea to help their immune system. Garnica believes it’s taken Americans longer to catch onto the green-tea trend because they’re so used to running to the doctor for everything.
“People want the easy way out,” he said. “When something happens they just run to the doctor to get it fixed.”
Drinking 8 ounces of green tea every day provides the body with several antioxidants that can lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of high blood pressure, Garnica said. He also recommended drinking green tea as opposed to taking it in pill form.
Catechins, which are powerful antioxidants found in green tea, have been shown in recent studies to fight viruses and slow aging. Catechins destroy free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules and fragments of molecules that can damage the body at a cellular level, leaving the body susceptible to cancer, heart disease and other degenerative diseases.
And with all the excitement about the benefits of green tea, several research groups have begun studying other types of tea to see if they’ve got healing power as well.
Recent studies indicate the molecular compounds contained in black tea – theaflavins and thearubigens – do more than contribute to its dark color and strong flavor. They also provide health benefits originally attributed only to green tea.
A study by the Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment found a connection between drinking black tea regularly and reducing the risk of stroke. Researchers looked at data from a study examining the health benefits of foods that are high in flavonoids and phytonutrients with antioxidant benefits. Although some of the flavonoids were obtained from fruits and vegetables, 70 percent came from black tea.
Dr. Joseph Vita at Boston’s School of Medicine conducted a separate study that supported these results. For four months, 66 men drank four cups of either black tea or took a placebo daily. Vita concluded that drinking black tea can help reverse an abnormal functioning of blood vessels that can contribute to stroke or heart attack.
Regardless of the numerous studies promoting or debunking the health benefits of green and black teas, Jane Higdon, a research associate with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, says tea research is still relatively new, and it will be a while until there is strong evidence confirming the benefits.
“Although numerous observational studies have examined the relationships between tea consumption and the risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer, there is no conclusive evidence that high intakes of black or green tea are protective in humans,” she said.