Black Tea Might Help Treat And Prevent Diabetes

Posted Mon, 08/10/2009 - 6:45pm by Fred Lee

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New research has found that black tea may be helpful in treating and preventing diabetes. It has long been known that tea contains antioxidants, and recent evidence indicates that it might help boost the immune system as well as reduce hypertension, but scientists now believe that some of the key compounds in black tea might help people suffering from type-2 diabetes.

In a recent study in China, published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers found that black tea had high levels of polysaccharides, which are a type of carbohydrate that includes starch and cellulose. Polysaccharides are believed to retard the absorption of glucose and may thus be beneficial to people with diabetes. Interestingly, of the three types of teas tested, which also included green tea and oolong tea, the polysaccharide in black tea also seemed to possess the strongest ability to mop up free radicals, which are believed to play a role in the onset of numerous cancers.

In another study out of Scotland, black tea was found to contain chemicals (theaflavins and thearubigins) that mimic insulin’s physiological effects. The theaflavins works by acting on a group of molecules known as FOXO transcription factors. These factors are believed to regulate the body’s rate of ageing.

It is known that FOXOs can be inhibited by insulin as well as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and with this in mind, researchers were searching for a dietary compound that would have the same effects. What they found was that three different theaflavins affected specific FOXOs in ways that were similar to both insulin and IGF-1. The theaflavins were also found to suppress certain genes in the liver that are responsible for glucose metabolism.

It is important to note that the Scottish study was carried out in a laboratory with cultured cells, and no definitive information is available regarding how the compounds in black tea might affect humans. Even the researchers are quick to point out that this is in no way a declaration to start drinking copious amounts of black tea, and any form of human testing is still years away.

Nevertheless, the findings increase our level of understanding of how certain biological mechanisms occur, which may in turn lead to medicines and dietary interventions that might help treat or delay the onset of age related diseases, including diabetes, which affects more than 20 million people in the United States.

And finally, might it be construed as a bonus that something that is consumed and enjoyed so ubiquitously the world over (next to water, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world) might actually have some positive health benefits?

I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, the answer is a resounding, “yes!”


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