While I enjoy a freshly brewed cup of green tea, there are times when I crave the fuller flavor of black tea. And why not? Green tea may be China's national drink, but black teas are known for their distinct flavors. Black tea from China can be sweet or spicy, with a hint of chocolate or the sweet fragrance of orchids.
Until recently, I worried that, by indulging my craving, I was losing out on green tea's numerous health benefits. But recent research indicates that black tea has its own health giving properties.
Green or Black Tea - which is better?
Until recently, tea research has focused on green tea. Green tea is loaded with the compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), a powerful anti-oxidant. Since the fermentation process used to make black tea converts EGCg into other compounds, researchers assumed black tea had less health benefits than green tea. However, recent studies indicate the compounds contained in black tea - theaflavins and thearubigens - do more than contribute to its dark color and distinctive flavor. They also provide health benefits originally attributed solely to green tea.
It's important to remember that tea research is still in the early stages. Jane Higden, a research associate with the Linus Pauling Institute, states in a recent article: "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 tea are protective in humans." Still, it looks like there is no need to worry about depriving yourself of possible health benefits if black tea is your beverage of choice.
Here are the results of research into black tea:
Black Tea Research
A long-term study by the Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment found a correlation between regular consumption of black tea and reduced risk of stroke. Researchers looked at data from a study examining the health benefits of foods that are high in flavonoids - phytonutrients with antioxidant benefits. While some of the flavonoids were obtained from fruits and vegetables, seventy percent came from black tea. The study looked at 552 men over a 15 year period. Researchers concluded that the flavonoids in black tea helped reduce the production of LDL - the "bad" cholesterol that can lead to stroke and heart attacks. Furthermore, men who drank over four cups of black tea per day had a significantly lower risk of stroke than men who drank only two to three cups per day.
A separate study by Dr. Joseph Vita at Boston's School of Medicine supported these results. For four months, sixty-six men drank four cups of either black tea or a placebo daily. Dr. Vita concluded that drinking black tea can help reverse an abnormal functioning of the blood vessels that can contribute to stroke or heart attack. Furthermore, improvement in the functioning of the blood vessels was visible within two hours of drinking just one cup of black tea.
Finally, a study of over 3,000 adults in Saudi Arabia - where black tea is favored over green - found that regular consumption of the dark brew can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by fifty percent.
Tea graph from the Linus Pauling Institute. Reprinted with permission.
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