By Kate Foster
Ingredients in black tea mimic insulin to fight deadly disease
IT IS the world's most popular drink, enjoyed everywhere from building sites to The Ritz.
But now scientists have discovered that the great British cuppa holds the potential to fight one of the nation's biggest life-threatening diseases.
Groundbreaking research by scientists at Dundee University has revealed that ordinary tea may have the potential to help combat type 2 diabetes, which affects around 200,000 Scots.
The scientists have discovered ingredients in black tea mimic the action of the hormone insulin, which is deficient in people with diabetes.
They say the next step is to establish whether drinking more tea could help treat diabetes or even prevent it occurring in the first place.
The popularity of black tea has declined in recent years as consumers increasingly developed a taste for mineral water, herbal infusions, fruit teas and speciality coffees.
The UK Tea Council claims that despite this decline, 165 million cups of tea are drunk each day in the UK – more than twice that of coffee at 70 million – making it by far the nation's most popular drink.
Dr Graham Rena, an insulin researcher at the University of Dundee's Neurosciences Institute, believes the health benefits of so-called 'builders' tea' may actually surpass those of other drinks, including green tea, which many claim has cancer-fighting properties and can help with weight loss.
In type 2 diabetes, insulin is produced by the body in insufficient quantities or does not work properly. Rena discovered that chemicals in black tea, known as theaflavins and thearubigins, mimic the action of insulin, which helps the body convert sugar to energy.
He said: "The prevailing view has been that green tea is the thing we must have for health benefits. But what we have found is that the substances that mimic insulin action are in black tea. It would be interesting to know what level of tea consumption, if any, can elicit similar effects to those that we have seen in our lab-based studies."
Rena said another option could be to create a pill from purified tea ingredients. "We would like to see these effects in human trials, and I am trying to get other researchers interested. We are hoping this can be made into a treatment."
Current treatments for the condition include insulin injections or tablets to help insulin work more effectively.
Rena's findings, which are published in the scientific journal Aging Cell, were last night welcomed by nutritionists and health campaigners.
Research has linked tea with benefits in fighting heart disease and cancer but until now little has been known about its potential to tackle diabetes.
Carina Norris, a nutritionist and researcher at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, said: "Tea, green and black, is a rich source of plant chemicals, which have a powerful antioxidant effect. We already know these have a protective effect against heart attacks, stroke and certain cancers.
"The new findings about type 2 diabetes are really exciting, and it's good that the scientists want to carry this research forwards. Type 2 diabetes is a growing and serious problem for Scotland."
Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "The results could be interesting, but more research is needed before any benefits of black tea for people with diabetes are proven."
Bill Gorman, chairman of the UK Tea Council, said: "Health science on tea has emerged in the past 10 years but little is known about tea and diabetes.
(read complete article at The Scotsman