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Black Tea May Help Lower Cholesterol

New research from Japan shows that Chinese black tea extract may have the power to reduce cholesterol levels, especially bad cholesterol.

In a recent study, researchers from the Nippon Supplement company in Osaka found that black tea extract reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 12%. Their results were published in the July 2008 edition of the journal Nutrition Reviews and noted other benefits associated with black tea extract including lower blood triglycerides and body weight.

The study involved 47 people with high cholesterol levels and ran for three months. The participants were split into two groups, one receiving one gram of the black tea extract and the other a placebo.

At the conclusion of the study researchers saw a 9% reduction in overall cholesterol levels and a 12% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol. According to the authors of the study, reduced cholesterol levels were still observable even one month after the conclusion of the study.

Researchers believe that the reduction in cholesterol can be attributed to tea's effect on bile in your gut. The tea binds to bile and inhibits the absorption of bile acid back into the liver. Since the bile is not reabsorbed and is instead removed from the body, your liver produces more to compensate for the loss.

To create new bile the liver uses a process called "hepatic synthesis." During this process, cholesterol is also broken down in the liver. Once created, the bile is released along with the broken down cholesterol - into the gall bladder. From there it is eventually excreted from the body through the digestive system, thereby reducing cholesterol levels.

The health properties of tea have been studied extensively in recent years. The benefits range from heart health to digestion and are generally attributed to polyphenols which naturally occur in tea plants.

There are several types of tea, the most popular being green, black and more recently, white. All are from the same plant and vary only in the amount of oxidation they are exposed to during fermentation.

White tea is said to contain the greatest percentage of polyphenols because is not fermented or oxidized. Green tea is slightly oxidized and usually contains about 30% polyphenols while black tea, which is exposed to the most oxidation, contains between 2%-10%.

Source: Nutrition Research (Elsevier)
July 2008, Volume 28, Issue 7, Pages 450-456
"Antihypercholesterolemic effect of Chinese black tea extract in human subjects with borderline hypercholesterolemia"
Authors: H. Fujita, T. Yamagami
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