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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Good news for tea drinkers
Tea
Black tea boosts the arteries
Tea is good for the heart, scientists have found.

They have discovered that drinking tea protects against heart disease by improving the function of the artery walls.

Tea contains antioxidants called flavonoids that may help prevent cholesterol damaging arteries.

But the new research suggests that might not be the only possible benefit from the drink.

It appears to improve the function of the linings of the artery wall - but only if you drink four cups of black tea a day.

Cells

Coronary artery disease can adversely affect the function of the vascular endothelium - the smooth layer of cells lining the walls of arteries.

A healthy vascular endothelium is supposed to expand and contract according to the body's blood flow needs.

It also helps prevent the formation of clots and the development of inflammation in the vessel wall.

These processes are impaired in people with endothelial dysfunction, a common feature of heart disease.

In the new study, the immediate and long term effects of drinking black-leaf tea and plain water were compared in 50 individuals with artery disease.

Endothelial dysfunction improved after drinking four cups of black tea a day, while water had no such effect.

Key part

Professor Joseph Vita, who led the Boston University team in Massachusetts, said: "Endothelial dysfunction is a key part of the development of cardiovascular disease.

"We've shown that black tea may help reverse this dysfunction and may reduce the risk of cardiac events."

The study, funded by the US National Institutes of Health and American Heart Association, was commissioned by the Tea Council.

Bill Gorman, chairman of the Tea Council in Britain, said: "With a staggering number of people in the UK suffering a heart attack each year, this discovery is good news to those suffering from cardiovascular problems."

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