U researchers study black tea’s influence on cardiovascular health

by Mike Zacharias

Many associate tea with crumpets, bad teeth and drunken political statements by revolutionaries dressed in American Indian garb.

But tea might also improve overall cardiovascular health.

In a new study at the University, researchers are attempting to measure the cardiovascular benefits of drinking black tea.

“We think that drinking black tea will reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease significantly,” said Myron Gross, principal investigator for the study and a professor in the department of laboratory medicine and pathology.

Gross said his team suspects tea might allow better blood vessel function, improve the function of platelets – which are found in blood and involved in clotting – and lower cholesterol. Improvement in these areas can reduce a person’s risk for heart disease.

This research differs from past studies because researchers will be measuring changes in the cardiovascular system of people with higher levels of cholesterol. Other studies have measured the overall benefits of tea drinking, but not the specific change in levels, Gross said.

“Some of the things we’re doing are the first time they are being done,” Gross said. “We’re looking at platelet function, and almost nobody has looked at platelet function yet. We’re also looking at cholesterol, and most people have not looked at cholesterol levels relevant to tea.”

Participants in the study will already have elevated levels of cholesterol. They will be put on a measured diet intended to sustain their level of cardiovascular health. If improvements are found, it can be attributed to the variety of teas given in the study.

“The reason for (using people with higher levels of cholesterol) is that those are the people who are at some significant risk but haven’t had a heart attack yet. Consequently, they’re the people that, if we can lower their risk, maybe we can prevent them from having (a heart attack),” Gross said.

The study will measure vessel functions with an ultrasound. Platelet function and cholesterol levels will be measured with blood samples.

Participants will be paid $1,000 for their 15-week participation in the study. Gross said his research will end next May.

“The study is very important in defining what a healthy diet is,” Gross said.

Mike Zacharias welcomes comments at [email protected]