Consumption of tea, chocolate may reduce risk of death from heart disease

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Last Updated: 2001-08-06 15:10:54 EDT (Reuters Health)

By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Consumption of catechins, a type of flavonoid found in black tea, apples and chocolate, reduces the risk of death from heart disease in older men, Dutch study findings suggest.

Among 806 men, ages 65 to 84, those who consumed the greatest amount of catechins were 51% less likely to die of ischemic heart disease during the 10-year study period, compared with men who consumed the lowest amount.

Catechins are part of the group of antioxidant plant compounds called flavonoids that have been linked to a lower risk of lung disease and certain cancers. They are major components of tea, accounting for roughly 30% of the dry weight of green tea and 9% of the dry weight of black tea, according to Dr. Ilja C. W. Arts, from the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven, the Netherlands, and colleagues.

"The results of our study have to be confirmed in other countries and populations before any recommendations can be made," Dr. Arts cautioned in an interview with Reuters Health.

Although men who consumed the greatest amount of catechins also tended to exercise more, not smoke, drink less coffee and consume more fiber and vitamin C, these factors did not influence the overall results, the researchers report in the August 1st issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Exactly how these compounds may guard against certain diseases is not clear. Dr. Arts suggested that they may work by preventing LDL cholesterol from damaging cells, by recycling other antioxidants such as vitamin E, or by reducing the risk of inflammation.

The average intake of catechins in the study was 72 mg, which can be obtained by drinking two cups of black tea with a small piece of chocolate, Dr. Arts said. Black tea was the major source of catechins among the subjects in this study.

Am J Clin Nutr 2001;74:227-232.

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