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November 16, 2010

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Pu'er may help diabetics: Research

IT'S well known that dark, mellow Pu'er tea reduces blood fat, lowers cholesterol, aids in weight loss and assists digestion.

Research shows that regularly drinking Pu'er, made from broad leaf tea in southwest China, has additional health benefits.

Experts at the recent China Pu'er Tea Festival in Shanghai reported that to some extent, Pu'er can work as secondary therapy for certain disease conditions caused by diabetes.

It also indicates that Pu'er may help prevent certain cancers and diseases of aging, thus helping to prolong life.

To find out more about Pu'er's effectiveness, research was carried out in Pu'er city in Yunnan Province, where virtually all China's Pu'er tea is grown.

Professor Sheng Jun, vice president of Yunnan Agriculture University, said at the festival in Shanghai that for one year 520 patients drank 1g "instant" Pu'er with 200ml water three times a day, half an hour before meals.

Results showed drinking the tea helped relieve symptoms of more than 70 percent of patients with dyslipidemia, an abnormal amount of lipids (cholesterol and/or fat) in the blood, which usually leads to diabetes.

As for patients with a positive albuminuria index, about 40 percent of them showed a negative index after drinking Pu'er tea for one year. Almost all of the patients with high blood fat and cholesterol had reduced symptoms.

Surprisingly, according to Sheng, the patients showed increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (good cholesterol) and decreased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (bad cholesterol) at the end of the research. And the changes started to occur after three months of drinking.

"Most of the drugs we use to lower cholesterol today decrease both good and bad cholesterol at the same time," says Sheng. "It is quite interesting to find that Pu'er can work in the ideal way of increasing the good while decreasing the bad."

He says Pu'er tea also effectively reduces some complications of diabetes, citing a recent experiment in mice by Professor Zhang Wensheng at the Resource Institute of Beijing Normal University.

His research found that Pu'er helped diabetic mice lose weight and prevent damage to kidneys and brain function (learning and memory), both common side effects of diabetes.

But Zhang reported that blood sugar is only found decreased in blood sugar two hours after dinner, while remaining the same in blood sugar on an empty stomach. Thus, drinking it after a meal appeared more effective than drinking on an empty stomach.

Green tea is widely known as an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer. Pu'er tea has also been shown to possibly help prevent lung cancer and prolong the lives of lung cancer patients, according to Professor Luo Ying of the College of Life Science and Technology at the Kunming University of Science and Technology. She released results of her latest mouse experiment at an experts forum at the tea festival.

Genetic mutation of P53 gene is widely accepted as a major trigger of lung cancer caused by smoking and passive smoking. Pu'er was found to restrict the genetic mutation and induce apoptosis (disintegration or cell death) of the cancer cells but do no harm to normal cells, according to Luo's experiment on both cells in mice that drank Pu'er tea.

"Of course, quitting smoking is the most effective way to prevent cancer, yet most people cannot manage it," said Luo. "Drinking Pu'er tea may be a good intervention."

Regular daily drinking of Pu'er was is enough to prevent genetic mutation in the mice, while the amount needed for cancer patients is not known, Luo said.

Research is expected to continue and focus on other cancers as well.

Sheng, from the Yunnan Agriculture University, advises drinking 3g instant Pu'er powder in warm water daily, three times a day, half an hour before meals.

As for tea bricks and loose tea, he says 5g tea leaves could be cooked in 300ml water for five minutes each time.

Fermented tea is better than raw tea as it is milder on the stomach lining.

Like wine, Pu'er tea smells better over time. It is most beneficial with long-time storage for fermenting, at least 10 years, says Sheng. Modern technology can also ferment good tea in a far shorter time.

Since Shanghai is damp, tea bricks should be stored in an airy place; it is placed in a box, the cover should be open. It should not be stored in the refrigerator.

Since Pu'er tea is considered "warm" (yang energy) in traditional Chinese medicine, some people may suffer excessive internal "heat" with symptoms such as thirst and dry lips. Drinking more water helps relieve symptoms.

A very few people, about 1-2 percent, may get headaches after drinking Pu'er, but symptoms usually disappear after a week of drinking, according to Sheng.


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