Tea drinkers have a longer lifespan

Regular consumption of tea can prolong life

Some studies indicate positive interactions between special tea ingredients and human DNA. This could explain why regular tea drinkers in epidemiological comparative studies are less likely to have a heart attack, less affected by osteoporosis or cancer.

Those who drink tea regularly are less likely to develop cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Numerous long-term studies have already reached this result. It has so far remained unknown why this is so. A German research team led by the chemistry expert Nikolai Kuhnert from Jacobs University found that "molecular biological interactions exist between some of tea's ingredients and human DNA". These could be responsible for the positive effects and a longer life expectancy.

So far, scientists had assumed that antioxidants in so-called polyphenols strengthen the health of tea drinkers. About 70 percent of these natural substances are contained in the dry tea mass. For example, black tea has around 30,000 such compounds.

Antioxidants protect against tissue damage
The fact is that antioxidants can prevent tissue damage by binding and eliminating free radicals. Free radicals are caused, for example, by added toxins and environmental influences. However, recent research in recent years has shown that polyphenols alone cannot be responsible for the antioxidant effects. For this reason, no convincing explanations for the health effects of tea have yet been provided by scientists.

The researchers from Bremen led by Nikolai Kuhnert were able to show for the first time which mechanisms lead to the positive effect. The effect of the plant substances is presumably based on molecular biological interactions with the genetic material stored in cells. On the basis of the findings that the polyphenols can be found in the tea plants, particularly in the cell nuclei, the scientists conducted research using various spectroscopy methods. The goal was to find out how the molecules correspond to the DNA. It was found that the tea polyphenols epigallocatechin gallate from green tea and theaflavin digallate from black tea very often form compounds with DNA particles and proteins that are located at the end of chromosomes. The two polyphenols mentioned are among the most common in teas. The DNA parts, also called telomeres, are essentially responsible for the maintenance of the chromosomes and protect them from destruction.

Regular tea consumption extends cell life
If cell division takes place, the enzyme Telemorase cuts off part of the Telomer. The more the enzyme cuts off the telomer, the less effective it remains. If a critical shortening is reached, the cell can no longer divide and dies. Continuous tea drinkers can at least slow down this process because the polyphenols in tea prolong the process described and thus also extend the life of the cells.

Based on the research findings, "we assume that this positive stabilizing effect on genetic information will also improve the health and life expectancy of the entire organism in the long term," says Kuhnert. The scientists were able to confirm the presumption by experimenting with fruit flies. The lifespan of flies increased by about 20 percent through the consumption of tea. “In principle, any chemical compound that docks onto the telomeres in this way can have this effect; Interestingly, we have not yet known any other natural substance that stabilizes telomeres as effectively as tea polyphenols, "explains the chemist.

The team's work is based on in vitro studies with humanoid telomer DNA. In the next step, the researchers now want to find out how the polyphenols in tea behave in everyday life in the human organism. It could turn out that polyphenols accumulate in the tissue through regular drinking of tea. "We would then have the first proof that a drink is able to extend people's lives." If it were successful, it would be a very interesting starting point for medical and clinical studies to explore the therapeutic potential of tea polyphenols, "says Kuhnert in summary. Another research project at Halle University Clinic is currently investigating the colorectal cancer prevention potential of green tea. (Sb)

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Image: Michael Grabscheit / pixelio.de

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