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Monday, 14 September, 1998, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
A curing cup of tea
Healthier than it looks: The simple cup of tea
The great British cuppa is being hailed by US scientists as a medical miracle with the potential to save thousands of lives.

Experts from the world's biggest coffee-drinking nation are now urging citizens to turn to tea in an attempt to help prevent cancer and heart disease.

New research shows that tea, the second most consumed beverage worldwide after water, has amazing disease-fighting capabilities.

Protective effects

Delegates attending the Second International Scientific Symposium in Washington DC heard how just one humble cup of tea has components with protective effects against cancer and heart disease.

Tea fields
Tea could protect humans from cancer
Symposium Chairman Dr John Weisburger, a senior member of the American health foundation, said: "Tea has great potential to help reduce the incidence of major disease world-wide especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle.

"In the past eight years we have made tremendous strides in understanding the potential of both black and green tea to prevent chronic illness which has important implications for public health.

"By focusing on how things like tea can prevent disease we might not only save hundreds and thousands of lives but also millions of dollars spent to treat illness."

More than 135 million cups of tea are drunk in Britain every day but so far Americans have failed to convert from their beloved coffee.

Tea slows spread of cancer

At the conference at the US Department of Agriculture, a study by Dr Junshi Chen from the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine in Beijing, has revealed for the first time direct evidence of the protective effects of tea on human cancer.

tea drinkers
The British have been drinking tea for many years
His study used a mixture of green and black tea to treat pre-cancerous lesions.

Given as a liquid and rubbed on to the affected area, the tea significantly reduced the growth of pre-cancerous cells.

Dr Chen said: "This is the first time we have seen tea play a major role in protecting against the formation of cancer in humans."

Tests on mice and rats showed that tea slowed the development of lung tumours and colon cancer and the leaf is also thought to decrease the risk of digestive tract cancer.

The beverage, which caught on in Britain when the Empire expanded to India, is also associated with a significant reduction in heart disease and strokes.

Experts revealed it may have greater anti-oxidant power than most fruit and vegetables and drinking just one cup is equivalent to eating one portion of vegetables.

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