A new study finds that tea boosts
the body's defenses against infection and contains a substance that
might be turned into a drug to protect against disease, researchers
say. Coffee does not have the same effect, they say.
A component in tea was found in laboratory experiments to prime
the immune system to attack invading bacteria, viruses and fungi,
according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences released Monday.
A second experiment, using human volunteers, showed that immune
system blood cells from tea drinkers responded five times faster
to germs than did the blood cells of coffee drinkers.
"We worked out the molecular aspects of this tea component
in the test tube and then tested it on a small number of people
to see if it actually worked in human beings," said Dr. Jack
F. Bukowski, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston
and Harvard Medical School. The results, he said, gave clear proof
that five cups of tea a day sharpened the body's disease defenses.
Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition specialist at Penn State University,
a nutrition expert, said Bukowski's study adds to a growing body
of evidence that tea is an effective disease fighter.
But she said the work needs to be confirmed in a much larger study.
The health effects of tea have been extensively studied. It has
been linked to lower heart disease and cancer risk through the action
of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Other studies have linked
tea to helping combat osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease.