the tea leaves, caffeine lovers. Tea is gaining ground over coffee. Even
Starbucks is bucking up its tea menu. The health benefits of tea are one
compelling reason: Green and black teas have 10 times the amount of antioxidants
found in fruits and veggies, by one estimate.
Studies of humans and animals show that the antioxidants in black and
green teas are highly beneficial to our health, says 82-year-old John
Weisburger, PhD, senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention
in Valhalla, N.Y.
"I've published more than 500 papers, including a hell of a lot on
tea," says Weisburger, who drinks 10 cups daily. "I was the
first American researcher to show that tea modifies the metabolism to
detoxify harmful chemicals."
Green tea, black tea, oolong tea -- they all come from the same tea plant,
Camellia sinensis. The leaves are simply processed differently, explains
Weisburger. Green tea leaves are not fermented; they are withered and
steamed. Black tea and oolong tea leaves undergo a crushing and fermenting
All teas from the camellia tea plant are rich in polyphenols, which are
a type of antioxidant. These wonder nutrients scavenge for cell-damaging
free radicals in the body and detoxify them, says Weisburger. "Astounding"
aptly describes tea's antioxidant power, he tells WebMD. "Whether
it's green or black, tea has about eight to 10 times the polyphenols found
in fruits and vegetables."
Black and green both have different types of antioxidants than fruits
Thearubigins, epicatechins, and catechins are among those listed in a
USDA chart. All are considered flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Brewed
green and black teas have loads of those, the chart shows. (Herbal teas
may also contain antioxidants but less is known about them, Weisburger
"In my lab, we found that green and black tea had identical amounts
of polyphenols," he tells WebMD. "We found that both types of
tea blocked DNA damage associated with tobacco and other toxic chemicals.
In animal studies, tea-drinking rats have less cancer."
Look at the world's big tea drinkers, like Japan and China. "They
have much less heart disease and don't have certain cancers that we in
the Western world suffer," says Weisburger.
Green Tea, Black Tea: Packed With Antioxidants
"The scientific evidence about tea is evolving and I think it's compelling,"
Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and
Policy at Tufts University, tells WebMD.
Tea is a great example of the past decade's research of antioxidants,
he says. "There is a pretty consistent body of evidence suggesting
there is a benefit to tea. Tea is a very rich source of a specific kind
of antioxidant called flavonoids."
The detoxifying effect of these antioxidants protects cells from free
radicals, the damage that can lead to blood clot formation, atherosclerosis,
and cancer, says Weisburger. The bulk of research shows that regular tea
drinkers, people who drink two cups or more a day, have less heart disease
and stroke, lower total and LDL (often called "bad") cholesterol,
and that they recover from heart attacks faster.
Some laboratory tests also show that black and green tea may help boost
metabolism to aid weight loss, block allergic response, slow the growth
of tumors, protect bones, fight bad breath, improve skin, protect against
Parkinson's disease, and even delay the onset of diabetes.
In a study involving bladder cancer cells, green tea extract seemed to
make the cancer cells behave oddly. They matured sooner, bound together
tightly, and had a hard time multiplying. Another study found that men
who drank oolong tea plus green tea extract lost more weight and total
body fat, compared with men who drank plain oolong tea. Also, the green
tea drinkers had lower LDL cholesterol.
Other small studies have found that the antioxidants from drinking tea
can help prevent skin cancer. There's also evidence that tea extracts
applied to the skin (in a lotion) can block sun damage that leads to skin
All this research seems to suggest that if you want to do something good
for yourself, drink tea. "It has no calories and lots of polyphenols.
If you're drinking tea, you're not drinking soda -- that's a real benefit.
Water doesn't give you those polyphenols," says Blumberg.
Weisburger recommends drinking six to 10 cups of black or green tea throughout
the day, starting with breakfast. Switch to decaf tea midday, if you need
to. "Flavonoids are unchanged by removal of caffeine," he says.
By Jeanie Lerche Davis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
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