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Drink To Your Health -- And Independence

Drink To Your Health -- And IndependenceOnce the center of political protest, tea continues to make headlines – now for its health benefits – more than 200 years after the Boston Tea Party.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.16.02] On this day in 1773, American colonists protested British taxes at the Boston Tea Party by boarding an English ship and dumping more than 300 chests of tea overboard. More than two centuries later, tea is still making headlines. In recent studies, green tea has been shown to contain important compounds which fight disease and can prevent cancer, according to nutrition researchers at Tufts.

"As investigators continue to study the multiple effects that tea has on human health, more research supports tea's potential in helping reduce the incidence of major diseases," Jeffrey Blumberg, chief of Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts' Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, said at a recent news conference.

According to Blumberg, a professor at the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, tea should be put in the same category as fruits and vegetables: foods that experts recommend in order to help cut risk of disease.

"In some respects, it is good to think of it as a plant food," the Tufts scientist told reporters.

Naturally occurring compounds in green tea are responsible for its health benefits.

"Blumberg said tea is loaded with phytochemicals-a wide range of molecules that can act as antioxidants. Such compounds counteract the damage to DNA cells by free radicals-charged particles produced by sunlight, chemicals, many foods and simply the stress of day-to-day living," reported Reuters.

Damaged DNA is associated with heart disease and can lead to cancer.

"It's taken about 30 years to fully appreciate the importance of these phytochemical compounds," Blumberg, who acts as an advisor for both the Tea Council and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, told Reuters.

The Tufts nutrition expert presented his research at the Third International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health. The conference--which took place in Washington D.C. in late September-was sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and others.

Blumberg is planning further research to determine how the compounds in tea function in the body and their possible implications on human health.

"[The findings] could have significant implications for public health," Blumberg said at the news conference.


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