It’s hard to pick up a magazine today and not come upon an article about the health benefits of tea. It wasn’t always like that. It took scientists like Dr. Weisburger to open the door, in this country, to begin the examination of tea and it’s unique ability to impact health and wellness. He began his career at the National Institute of Health and the National Cancer Institute in 1949, Dr. Weisburger eventually left to became the Director of Research at The American Health Foundation in l972. The AHF was designed to develop programs in preventive medicine. They were in fact responsible for starting the Journal of Preventive Medicine which continues to be a well respected scientific publication. The first conference about tea, held in America, was spear headed by the AHF and the American Cancer Society and the proceedings were actually published in the l992 May and July issues of Preventive Medicine. Dr Weisburger played a prominent role in that process. I am so delighted to have this opportunity to ask Dr. Weisburger some questions about tea and why it’s so important for us to consume this remarkable beverage on a regular basis.

Michelle: My favorite quote of yours is “Tea is beating all scientific expectations as the most potent beverage ever. The many ways that tea can enhance health is truly astonishing”. Could you help us understand why you feel so strongly that tea is the beverage to drink for health and wellness.

Dr. Weisburger: Tea is rich in powerful antioxidants, even more so than vegetables and fruits. Many diseases in man stem from reactive oxygen species (ROS). This includes heart disease and many types of cancer. Thus, the antioxidants in tea protect against ROS. In addition, ROS is also connected with aging.

Michelle: How much tea do you drink each day?

Dr. Weisburger: I drink 8 cups of tea every day.

Michelle: What about exercise? If you drink enough tea, can you avoid exercise and still maintain optimal health?

Dr. Weisburger: I’ll be 85 years old next month. In addition to drinking 8 cups of tea, I exercise on a treadmill for 45 minutes each day. I believe that the combination of exercise, good general nutrition, and tea consumption will play an important role in helping people to age well.

Michelle: What role do you feel tea can play in protecting us from disease?

Dr. Weisburger: As you’ve noted, tea and the associated polyphenols suppress the ROS formed during metabolism of cell systems. The modification of the intestinal bacterial flora and an antiviral action by regular intake of tea deserves note. It turns out the beneficial bacteria in the gut thrive in the presence of tea, but the less desirable bacterial species do not appear to survive well. Thus, regular intake of tea improves the metabolic function of the bacteria in the intestinal tract, an important contributor to overall metabolism and health promotion. Disease prevention, an effective approach to control the high cost of medical care, can be facilitated by an increased consumption of tea.

Dr Weisburger has authored over 500 professional articles. A great review can be found in his article titled “Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease and Cancer by Tea, A Review.” You can find it in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine Vol, 7, No. 6 January 2003. Dr. Weisburger will be returning periodically to answer some of your questions and continue to share his insight and understanding about this remarkable beverage.