Health) - Numerous studies have suggested that regular consumption
of black tea is protective against a host of human cancers. Now
scientists think they know why.
'secret weapon' may be a compound called theaflavin-3'-monogallate
(TF-2), one of a family of potent anti-cancer compounds called
very interesting properties'' against colon cancer cells, according
to researcher Dr. Kuang Yu Chen of Rutgers University in New Brunswick,
Wednesday to reporters at the annual meeting of the American Chemical
Society, Chen explained that while exposure to TF-2 leaves normal
cells unharmed, cancer cells ''commit suicide'' in droves.
experiments, Chen's team added tea-derived TF-2 to both healthy
cells and colorectal cancer cells. Normal cells flourished, the
researchers report, while malignant cells underwent a process
called apoptosis--programmed cell death.
further, the Rutgers team discovered that TF-2 appears to suppress
the activity of the Cox 2 gene. This gene has been the focus of
intense scientific research because, when 'switched on,' Cox 2
helps triggers the inflammation process, an integral part of the
sequence of events that can cause normal cells to turn into cancer
cells. ``The relation between Cox 2 and colon cancer has been
very well established,'' Chen said.
drugs such as Vioxx and Celebrex, used to treat arthritis, also
suppress Cox 2. So while pharmaceutical companies race to find
complex agents that inhibit Cox 2, Chen believes one such source--black
tea--may be found percolating in their corporate lunchrooms.
remain to be answered, however. Scientists have not yet determined
the optimum level of black tea consumption needed before any significant
anti-cancer benefit kicks in. And Chen stressed that his findings
regarding TF-2 remain preliminary, requiring further study in
animal and human models.
are found in other foods and drink, including green tea and grape
skins, but polyphenols in both those foods exhibit a ``less dramatic''
effect against cancer cells, according to the researchers.
modifying the chemical structure of grape skin polyphenols in
the lab, the investigators were able to greatly enhance their
toxicity against cancer cells. Based on that finding, Chen speculates
that ``by rationally modifying the chemical structure of nutraceuticals
(like grape skin polyphenols) we can actually improve on nature.''
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