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Study: Tea may be key to protecting against some cancers

Tea Cups From CNN Food & Health correspondent Eugenia Halsey
September 15, 1998

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Tea has always been popular from England to the Orient, and it's making a comeback in America. Now there's more reason to sip a cup -- good health.

The lastest science shows tea is full of healthy substances, including ones known as antioxidants, that may help prevent everything from heart disease to strokes to cancer.

"The antioxidant properties of one cup of tea are greater than one glass of fruit juice or an equivalent portion of fruits and vegetables," said Catherine Rice-Evans of Kings College in London.

For the first time, there is also direct evidence tea can protect against cancer in humans.

A Chinese study of 59 people at risk for mouth cancer found those who were given tea for six months were slower to actually develop the disease than those who didn't drink it.

"We believe this is quite promising, not only because oral cancer is an important human cancer, but it seems all cancers have some similar characteristics," said Dr. Junshi Chen of the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine in Beijing.

Chen's results were released Tuesday at the Second International Scientific Symposium on Tea & Human Health.

In animal studies, tea also helped prevent lung, colon and digestive cancers.

Scientists say the antioxidants in tea neutralize free radicals that damage the body. Tea also seems to boost the production of certain enzymes that may fight disease.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not just green tea that's good for you. The latest research shows black tea, what most people in the United States drink, is also healthy.

It's not clear how much tea is needed reap the health benefits. Although one cup alone of the kind found a grocery story appears to do some good.

While researchers are now touting the benefits of tea, they say it is no substitute for a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables.

Source: CNN interactive

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