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Better Health News and Comment

Tea Compound Associated with Decreased Heart Disease Risk
By Matt Brignall, ND

Healthnotes Newswire People with the highest intake of a compound found in tea and other foods have a reduced risk of heart attack, according to a study published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.1

In this new study, the authors interviewed 806 men aged 65 to 84 years regarding their usual diet. Over the next ten years, 90 of these men died from a heart attack. The authors compared the diets of men who died from heart attacks with those who survived.

Men who ranked in the highest one-third with respect to intake of catechins (compounds most prevalent in tea, chocolate, and apples) had a 50% reduction in incidence of fatal heart attacks, compared with those in the lowest one-third of catechin intake. Each increase of 50 mg of catechins per day, roughly equivalent to either two apples, or a cup of black tea plus a small piece of chocolate, resulted in a 25% reduction of heart attack risk.

There were two major problems with this study, however. The first was the finding that the vast majority of dietary catechins came from tea. This made it impossible for the authors to separate the effects of catechins from the effect of tea itself. Some,2 but not all,3 studies have found that increasing intake of tea is associated with decreased heart disease risk. Perhaps a component of tea other than catechins is responsible for the beneficial effect.

The other shortcoming of this study was that the patient population was small for a study of this type. Meaningful studies of dietary determinants of disease risk generally tend to include thousands or tens of thousands of participants. Smaller studies carry the risk of attaching significance to results that may have occurred simply by chance.

Preparations of catechins isolated from green tea are commonly found on the shelves of health food stores, and are often taken as a source of antioxidants or as potential cancer-preventing agents.

1. Arts ICW, Hollman PCH, Feskens EJM, et al. Catechin intake might explain the inverse relation between tea consumption and ischemic heart disease: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2001;74:22732.
2. Sesso HD, Gaziano JM, Buring JE, Hennekens CH. Coffee and tea intake and the risk of myocardial infarction. Am J Epidemiol 1999;149:1627.
3. Hertog MG, Sweetnam PM, Fehily AM, et al. Antioxidant flavonols and ischemic heart disease in a Welsh population of men: the Caerphilly Study. Am J Clin Nutr 1997;65:148994.

Matt Brignall, ND, is in practice at the Seattle Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center and at the Evergreen Integrative Medicine Clinic in Kirkland, WA. He specializes in integrative treatment of cancer.


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