Monday, June 12, 2006

Green Tea May be Protecting Smokers

Scientists think that green tea may explain the Asian paradox, reports CNN. What's the Asian paradox? Glad you asked. In Asia, despite higher smoking rates, a smaller ratio of men die from coronary heart disease than in the United States.

According to the CNN piece, 348 of every 100,000 U.S. men die from coronary heart disease while just 186 per 100,000 die of the disease in Japan. But wait, there's more. Despite the fact that more adults smoke in Korea than the United States (37 percent compared to 27 percent), just 40 per 100,000 Korean males die from lung cancer while 67 of 100,000 American males die of the disease.

"In Japan, China and other Asian countries, it is a social custom to drink green tea… and it's possible that this habit helps explain the so-called 'Asian paradox,'" read the CNN piece.

Green tea is rich in antioxidants called catechins. These compounds destroy free radicals that, "in excess, can damage body cells and potentially lead to disease," reports CNN. Free radicals can be created by "normal body processes" and not-so-normal sources like tobacco smoke.

In addition to neutralizing free radicals, catechins can lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, "keep artery walls functioning smoothly," "block tumor formation or growth," and "inhibit blood cells from sticking together and forming clots," according to the CNN article.

Despite these benefits, I'd like to remind smokers that people in Asian cultures still die from coronary heart disease and lung cancer. Green tea is not a magic shield. As CNN quoted one expert, "smoking cessation is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer."

More bad news: High School Smoking Rates Stagnate
CNN also reports that, between 2003 and 2005, smoking rates among high school students leveled off after dropping since 1997. Nine years ago, 36 percent of students said they had smoked in the previous 30 days. That figure dropped steadily until 2003 when it hit 22 percent. And that's about where we are today, reports CNN, one-in-four high school students have smoked in the last 30 days. Special note to high school students: If you're going to drink, please, at the very least, drink some green tea. Lots of it.

See also:
Green Tea: Not so Hot
In Brief: Chocolate, Booze & Cigarettes

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.