Tea Trial

Reporter: Graeme Butler

"Cardio vascular disease kills 48 thousand Australians every year so it's the leading cause of death in this country" In an age of high technology - medical marvels can still come from something as amazingly simple as a tea bag.

"The idea is that if tea can improve blood vessel function that may translate into a reduced risk of heart disease" We've been drinking tea for thousands of years - a tonic originally from the mystic east ... now science is trying to prove what many people have believed for millennia.. That tea can help you live a healthier life. "There are population studies that show people who drink more tea have a lower risk of heart disease and benefits of tea on blood vessel function maybe one of the mechanisms by which that occurs"

Dr Jonathon Hodgson from the department of medicine at the university of Western Australia is about to conduct a trial to see just why a cup of tea can have such a positive effect on heart health. "Our main interest over the last ten years or so has been looking at how and why that might be we've looked at things like affects on cholesterol blood pressure and effects on blood vessel function so risk factors for heart disease"

Six years ago Dr Hodgson completed a four week trial where participants drank five cups of tea a day - the results were remarkable - blood vessels vital for a healthy heart started to improve their performance - becoming more flexible... a little bit like winding back the aging clock. ... It has implications for a range of ailments, including coronary heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

It's believed flavonoids - a type of anti-oxidant is the mystery ingredient in tea. Basically, antioxidants are substances found in food and other vitamins that help clean up the body - protecting cells from attack by damaging molecules called free-radicals. "Flavonoids come from a whole lot of fruits and vegetables but if people have as little as two cups of tea a day that will provide that will provide half the flavonoid intake so tea is usually or often the major contributor to the total flavonoid"

Now Dr Hodgson is about to extend the trial to 100 people over a six month period - a world first of its kind. "You always hear rumours teas good for you god for your heart kind of thing so it would be nice to confirm I think it's partially been confirmed already and this will certainly help it along that way"

Brian Turner is one of the first to put his hand up for the trial - every day for six months he will drink three cups tea and undergo a special ultrasound of his blood vessels and have his blood pressure checked several times to monitor any changes. "I see it as a sacrifice for science so a sacrifice for the research in that I will be drinking only three cups I understand the study and it won't be the tea I generally like to drink but I'm fine with that for six months I can do it"

Brian's job will be made easier because his wife Michelle who's also a tea fanatic, will be taking part too. "It doesn't matter to me so much about the medical part of it because I enjoy tea and I wouldn't stop drinking it just because it's not good for me so it's an extra that it's good for me"

"Hopefully this research plus other research looking at the benefits of regular tea drinking will enable the heart foundation to add regular tea drinking to it's cast of recommendations for the community" Maurice Swanson from the heart foundation says the potential for this type of research is enormous. If the evidence stacks up - adding a few cups of tea to the diet is a simple step to a better life - "a positive recommendation I think will always go down better with the community especially if it's something that they can take up and use without much effort the easier the better"

Julia Percy-Bowen from Tea Specialist cafe "leaf" says many customers are already aware of the health benefits of tea. There have been many studies into the health benefits of tea - green tea has been linked to increased cancer survival and even improvements in altimeters patients - this study will only look at Black tea - so if you think it's your cup of tea - "we're looking for both men and women who are basically healthy men and women with normal to normal hight blood pressure also people who might be treated for high blood pressure"

100 people are needed for the trial being run in Perth.

Participants will need to meet certain medical requirements - but generally most people should be able to participate.

If chosen you will need to drink 3 cups of tea per day (tea is supplied by the trial) - the catch for tea lovers is the tea is powdered to allow for a placebo. Participants must agree NOT to drink other tea during the trial

If interested contact Centre for Food and Genomic Medicine on (08) 9224 0313.