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Greenwise - February 2006

Fit to a Tea
A cup a day could keep the oncologist away

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TeaWhat could be more soothing than knowing that your daily tea ritual might reduce the risk of certain cancers? A growing body of research suggests it may be so. "We now have a wealth of laboratory data indicating that tea or its components protect against the development of tumors," says Tom Gasiewicz, Ph.D., chair of the environmental medicine department at the University of Rochester.

Tea's anticancer agents are polyphenols, antioxidants that prevent cell damage caused by unstable molecules (called oxidants or free radicals). In addition, tea polyphenols may reduce abnormal cell growth and inflammation. Gasiewicz is currently studying one particular polyphenol, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is believed to play an especially big role in cancer prevention. "The less processed the tea, the higher the level of these components," Gasiewicz says. White tea is the least processed, followed by green, oolong, black, and red, in that order.

In Cleveland, at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Sanjay Gupta, Ph.D., and his colleagues have been studying the effect of green tea polyphenols on prostate cancer. "In cell cultures, we showed that these polyphenols selectively killed cancer cells while sparing normal cells," says Gupta, an assistant professor of urology. "In animal studies, the polyphenols inhibited prostate tumor growth." Researchers elsewhere have found that tea or its components reduced cancers of the colon, esophagus, liver, stomach, breast, lung, pancreas, and skin in animals.

It's not known how much tea you should drink to cut cancer risk. Gupta believes that consistently drinking 1 to 3 cups per day is probably enough, while Gasiewicz cites 3 to 4 cups.

TO LEARN MORE: www.teausa.org. Select Tea & Health, click on Tea Consumption and Health, and start with the overview.

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