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Tea & Human Health

Modern Life-style and resultant problems on health

Despite great advances in medical science, statistics of the present day world seem to indicate that there is a rapid growth in chronic diseases, including cardio-vascular diseases and cancer of various types. Experts have found it difficult to control these diseases and medicare expenses have been on the rise. Even the advanced countries like the USA and UK have found it difficult to cope with the rising health-care costs, not to speak of the developing and under-developed countries. It is generally felt that the increasing incidence of these diseases to due to the lifestyle of the common man and his dietary habits. Even people who can afford, generally tend to ignore eating proper quantities of fruits, milk or other nutritious food. Younger people generally tend to take to fast foods, carbonated drinks, food containing excessive fats, and often resort to excessive smoking and drinking. In addition, stress in the work atmosphere and environment problems seem to be increasing.

Changing the life- style of a man takes time. Experts have therefore been thinking of ways and means to control or prevent incidence of diseases while allowing the common man to continue to live with his own life- style. Research Scientists after discovering the chemical properties of Tea seem to feel that drinking of tea could provide a solution to the problem. Ancient thoughts on Tea as a health beverage The medicinal values of tea have been emphasised from time immemorial. In the earliest treatise on Tea called "CHA CHING', by Chinese scholar Lu Yu it is said, "When feeling hot, thirsty, depressed, suffering from headache, eye ache, fatigue of the four limbs, or pains in the joints, one should drink only tea, four or five times a day." About long-term benefits of tea, Lu Yu said in the treatise: 'Tea tempers the spirit, harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude, relieves fatigues, awakens thought, prevents drowsiness, refreshes the body and clears the perspective faculties. "

The virtues of tea over both wine and water were noted even in pre-Confucian times by Ching-Nung, scholar and philosopher; "Tea is better than wine, for it leadeth not to intoxication, it is better than water for it doth not carry disease, neither doth it act as poison when the wells contain foul and the rotten matter.". Similar thoughts have also been expressed by a .Japanese botanist and Chemist of the Imperial Court in 1730. And with such credentials, as the "best of the herbs" tea moved forward in Europe and North America.

Lu Yu is understood to have suggested that "drinking tea wards off kidney stones and gall stones. " The Chief of the Jain sect, Buddhist abbot Yeisai, in his book "KITCHA-YOJOKI," acclaimed tea as a "divine remedy and a supreme gift of heaven for preserving human life"

The ancient image of tea as a healthy beverage has survived the passage of time, and has engaged scholars and scientists in many countries spend years in research. However, most of the other health benefits claimed for tea were less convincing until quite recently when this concept, long accepted in the Far East, of foods and drinks giving health benefits, first began to interest nutritionists in America and Europe.

Recent Research findings

It is only recently, some time in the mid-'SOs that the role of consumption of beverages and human health received attention, and the beneficial effects of Tea on health came to light. Till then, among the beverages, research studies were confined mainly to alcohol.

The findings of these research studies indicate the presence of significant anti-oxidant properties in tea which help in building up a suitable defence mechanism in the human body against some of the dreaded diseases. The first disease for such research was Cancer, followed by Coronary Heart disease, two of the most feared diseases affecting the human population worldwide.

For proper understanding of this subject, therefore, it would be worthwhile understanding a little more about the "oxidants" and "anti-oxidants".

OXIDANTS & ANTI-OXIDANTS

Oxygen is essential to human life, and without it we cannot survive. Yet oxygen is also involved in toxic reactions within our body and is therefore a constant threat to our well being. We can tolerate oxygen only because of the powerful defence mechanism that exists in our body which minimises its toxic effects.

During the course of our daily lives, a variety of chemical reactions and processes take place within our bodies, known as "Metabolism." Either through the normal process of internal metabolism or external elements, such as pollutants, chemicals, stress, rich diet, smoking, exertion, ultra-violet light, and even sunlight, the unstable or unpaired oxygen molecules are released. These are know as 'free radicals'. Although free radic,als may also serve some useful purpose in the human body, generally the presence of free radicals contribute to degeneration of cells in the body.

These 'free radicals' are molecules with unpaired electrons. Normally in the human body, almost all molecules exist in a 'paired' or 'stable' state. These free radicals, with their unpaired electrons, look out for other electrons with which to 'pair' and thus create more free radicals.

When the content of oxidants becomes high due to internal or external sources, the body's anti-oxidant defence mechanism may be unable to cope with the same. This disturbs the balance. within the body, resulting in various problems like ageing, cancer or other degenerative diseases.

Luckily for us, the damage caused by these 'free radicals' can be kept to the minimum by ample intake of 'anti-oxidants' (also known as free radical scavengers).

Anti-oxidants neutralise the formation of free radicals, by offering an electron to pair up. Polyphenols in tea has been identified to have very superior anti-oxidant properties.

How ample intake of dietary anti-oxidants, associated with some vitamins and minerals, through tea can help in preventing or controlling some of the chronic disease is explained below. Impact of anti-oxidants on certain diseases Cancer : Research had concluded that some Cancers are caused by accumulation of cell damage caused by free-radicals due to oxidation. It has been estimated that a typical human cell experiences about 10,000 'oxidative hits' to its DNA each day. Anti-oxidants help in controlling the damage to cells and thus able to offer protection against Cancer.

Dr Hasan Mukhtar of Case Western University, USA, has done more than 50 experiments initially on Green Tea and then Black Tea, which demonstrated that the chemo-preventive agent, polyphenols, formed in tea help in controlling the activity of free radicals which cause most diseases, including cancer. Experiments have also been done on Tea by Dr Y. Hara of Japan and Dr C.S. Yang of Rutger University, New Jersey, with similar results.

CARDIO-VASCULAR : Oxidation, by free radicals playa role in cardio-vascular diseases in two ways:

i) One, involving the long-term development of "atherosclerosis" by transferring low density lIipoprotein (LOL) into an oxidised form. (Atherosclerosis is the hardening of arteries when fatty plaque accumulates under the lining of the artery wall. Sometimes, these could lead to heart attack)

ii) the other, involving the immediate damage that occurs during the heart attack or stroke. Researchers have proved that anti-oxidants help in contracting both these processes by inhibiting blood- clotting and improving vascular function. They suggest that regular drinking of about 4 - 5 cups of Green or
Black Tea a day may have a beneficial effect on the two long-established heart disease risk factors: High Blood Chloresterol and High Blood Pressure.

EYE-DISEASES : The oxidative process also seems to contribute to the age-related diseases of the eyes, such as cataract and recent evidence suggests that high dietary intake of anti-oxidants may help delay or prevent these diseases.

INFLAMATORY DISEASES: Free radicals and oxidative stress may play a role in inflamatory diseases like Rheumatoid arthritis. Intake of anti-oxidants can prevent or arrest growth of these diseases.

REDUCED IMMUNE FUNCTIONS: With the increase in age, several immune functions in the body decline or become weaker. This decline can partly be arrested by diet supplemented with anti-oxidants.

DIABETES: Some limited evidence from animal studies suggest that tea may have an effect on glucose tolerance in diabetes.

DENTAL: Tea contains fluoride - a mineral that helps prevent cavities and strengthens tooth enamel. As little as one cup of tea a day can help reduce plaque formation and infections in the mouth.

SKIN: Certain properties in tea help in improving blood circulation and in maintaining the glow of the skin. This prevents the effects of ageing. Dermatological studies are now being carried out by cosmetic companies in different parts of the world in this respect.

TEA & ITS ANTI-OXIDANT PROPERTIES

It is becoming clear that much of the beneficial effects of tea are associated with anti-oxidant polyphenols which comprise about one-third of the weight of dried leaves. Moreover the tea polyphenols have superior anti-oxidant effects compared to any other antioxidant present in fruits and vegetables known to the mankind. In addition it contains elements of vitamin 8-2, C & E, Fluoride, Magnesium & Zinc. The cumulative effects of these result in prevention of some diseases mentioned above. Moreover tea is natural product without any preservatives and is virtually calorie free.

GREEN AND BLACK TEA

Research studies have proved that both Green tea and Black tea have useful effects on various diseases.

Preservation of the medicinal properties of the tea leaves takes place during the manufacturing stage. Freshly harvested tea leaves require to be processed for manufacturing Green, Oolong and Black Tea. Green tea is processed (mentioned earlier) in a manner designed to prevent the enzymatic oxidation of catechin.

In case of Oolong tea, oxidation is partial. During conversion of green leaf into Black tea about 15% of the "epicatechins" remain unchanged. About 75% are converted into "thearubigins" and 1 0% into "theaflavins." and other compounds which are equally useful in controlling chronic diseases.

HOW MANY CUPS ONE SHOULD DRINK

A study at the Antioxidant Research Centre in London published in 'Free Radical Research' in February 1999 showed that the antioxidants in 2 cups of tea are equal to those of 7 glasses of orange juice or 20 glasses of apple juice.

While Tea cannot replace vegetables and fruits in a balanced diet, a 170 ml (6 oz) cup of tea can make a significant contribution to the antioxidants consumed each day.

To derive the proper benefits of tea, research scientists suggest regular intake of tea - recommended dosage for adults is said to be 4-5 cups a day.

It may be worthwhile quoting the English translation of an old Chinese poem advising as to how many cups of tea we should drink:

"One cup does all disorders cure
With two, your troubles will be fewer
Thrice, to the bone more vigour give
With four, forever you will live
as young as on your day of birth
A true immemorial on the earth. "

ELEVEN REASONS WHY ONE SHOULD DRINK TEA

1. It is a natural, safe and pure drink free of fat, calories, or sodium.
2. It is refreshing and relaxing.
3. It banishes drowsiness, stimulates the thinking and improves memory.
5. It lowers the risk of Cancer.
6. It lowers the risk of cardio-vascular diseases.
7. It reduces cholesterol, especially the low density lipoprotein (LOLl.
7. It improves the fight against viral diseases.
8. It prevents infection.
9. It improves dental health and bone density.
10. It improves longevity.
11 . It strengthens friendship and goodwill.

CONSUMPTION OF TEA

Today, annual consumption of tea in India is about 650 m.kgs - daily per capita consumption being less than a cup. Globally, daily consumption per capita is just about half a cup.

The new research findings on the health properties of tea and generation of its awareness among the consumption public may offer immense potential to the Tea Industry to increase consumption. However, when it is a question of beverage for health, the Industry must ensure that the tea it offers is of good quality.

CAFFEINE IN TEA

Caffeine represents about 7.6% of the dry matter in tea infusion. The amount of caffeine in a typical cup of tea (200 mil is about 50 mg - about 40% of that in a cup 1/2 of coffee. Caffeine in tea is probably less because of the formation of complexes with polyphenols, so that stimulant effect can be regarded as very mild. The gentle stimulant effect can assist concentration and alertness. This extent of caffeine in a tea cup is said to have a beneficial effect. Most people can drink upto 10 or 12 cups of tea a day and stay within the caffeine limit recommended, according to Canada's 'Food Guides to Healthy Eating' .

A reasonble quantity of Caffeine increases not only the rate of respiration in human body but also the muscle capacity without increasing blood pressure. It also increases mental alertness and relieves fatigue.

13 Sep, 2011
Excerpts from TEA - THE UNIVERSAL HEALTH DRINK by R S Jhawar




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