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April 19, 2011

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Tea, tai chi for healthy bones

DRINKING green tea and practicing tai chi may promote healthy bones in postmenopausal women, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, focused on postmenopausal women and investigated the potential for green tea to work synergistically with taichi in enhancing bone strength.

Taichi is a mind-body exercise that utilizes slow, gentle movements to build strength and flexibility, as well as deep breathing and relaxation, to move qi, or vital energy, throughout the body.

The study findings were published at, the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The experiment involved 171 postmenopausal women with an average age of 57 who had weak bones but not fully-fledged osteoporosis.

They were divided into 4 groups - placebo: starch pill (placebo) and no taichi; GTP or green tea polyphenols (500 mg/day) and no tai chi; placebo plus tai chi (tai chi three times a week); and GTP plus tai chi.

The study lasted for 6 months, during which time blood and urine samples were collected and muscle strength assessed.

The results showed that the consumption of GTP (at a level equivalent to about four-six cups of green tea daily) and participation in tai chi independently enhanced markers of bone health by three and six months, respectively.

A similar effect was found for muscle strength at the 6-month point.

Participants taking tai chi classes also reported significant beneficial effects in quality of life in terms of improving their emotional and mental health.

Perhaps most remarkable, however, was the substantial effect that both GTP and tai chi had on biological markers of oxidative stress. Because oxidative stress is a main precursor to inflammation, this finding suggests that green tea and tai chi may help reduce the underlying cause of not only osteoporosis, but other inflammatory diseases as well.

In the study, the researchers developed an animal model (using female rats), with which they could effectively study the effects of green tea consumption on protection against breakdown of the bone's microarchitecture.

In humans, this can lead to osteoporosis. The researchers say what they have learned from the animal models might also be applicable to postmenopausal women.

There is a "favorable effect of modest green tea consumption on bone remodeling in this pre-osteoporotic population," said lead researcher Dr Chwan-Li Shen, an associate professor at the institute.


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