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Tearooms Offer a Healthy Buzz

Oodles of antioxidants are contained in green tea, black tea, even oolong tea.

The Evidence on Tea

"The scientific evidence about tea is evolving and I think it's compelling," Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy of 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 -- flavonoids," says Blumberg.

Admittedly, there has been conflict among the studies. One large study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed nearly 40,000 women for nearly seven years. Researchers found that drinking over four cups of tea a day did nothing to reduce their risk of heart disease.

However, the bulk of research is what counts most, Blumberg says. And that research has found that regular tea drinkers -- people who drink two cups or more a day -- have less heart disease and stroke, lower total and LDL cholesterol, and that they recover from heart attacks faster.

Smokers who drink four cups of tea regularly have less evidence of DNA cell damage -- genetic mutations that can lead to cancer. Mouse studies have found fewer lung tumors in mice drinking tea.

When tea drinkers' immune cells are exposed to germs in a Petri dish, the immune cells spring into action. When coffee drinkers' immune cells are exposed to germs, nothing happens.

Laboratory tests have also shown 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, even delay the onset of diabetes.

How is this possible? While the mechanisms within tea are complex, it seems to be the detoxifying effect of antioxidants that protects cells from free radicals -- the damage that leads to blood clot formation, atherosclerosis, and cancer, says Weisburger.

However, tea is not a cure-all. "Tea is certainly not a panacea," Blumberg tells WebMD. In fact, not everyone may benefit equally from tea. "I think we need to do more work to better define both why and who benefits from tea consumption."

The Bottom Line

"If you want do something good for yourself, drink tea," says Blumberg. "It has no calories and lots of phytochemicals. If you're drinking tea, you're not drinking soda -- that's a real benefit. Water doesn't give you those phytochemicals."

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.

Kids should drinking tea, too. "We try to get children eat vegetables," Weisburger say. "I'm suggesting that children age 6 on should be drinking decaffeinated tea."

Not that kids need a fancy tearoom -- iced tea at home works fine.

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