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The Green Revolution

Courtesy - The Hindu ,Monday, Dec 12, 2005
Tea may be India's national beverage, but it's time to switch to the green version, says PANKAJA SRINIVASAN  
Chai! The magic four-letter word that instantly conjures up deliciously strong, steaming hot tea on cold misty mornings. We are a nation of great tea drinkers. But the beverage we gulp down is not exactly what the doctor ordered. Have you heard of green tea? Not many people are drinking that. But now with `wellness' campaigns, weight loss and holistic health treatments being aggressively pursued, there are those who have woken up to the benefits of green tea and the more upmarket of supermarkets are stocking various brands of green tea promising miraculous cures— from glowing skin, great hair, a better figure right up there to fighting cancer.
The beginning
Actually green tea is the mother of all teas. At one time it was the only kind of tea there was. Five thousand years ago a sprig of tea accidentally found its way into the royal cup of hot water that Emperor Shen Nung was sipping, and that was perhaps the first ever cup of brewed green tea. The Chinese emperor was smitten and soon the brew became the sought after drink the rich and the famous sipped. And they called it `Cha'.
The difference between green tea and the other kinds of tea is that the former is not fermented. This helps in preserving its powerful anti-oxidants. And what are anti-oxidants? They are substances that keep sickness at bay and oxidise fat. In fact, the story goes that poorer Chinese people stopped drinking the non-fermented green tea as it so effectively reduced fat. They wanted to retain some of the fat in their bodies as they were living in hard times. So they started drinking partially fermented tea instead as that had less fat-oxidising elements. "Findings did not depend on whether the women were smoking or not, whether or not they took hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and whether or not they suffered from vascular disease," she said.
Packed with vitamins
Green tea is also packed with vitamins and minerals that really make it a healthy alternative to any other kind of beverage.
Despite its beneficial effect, green tea has not quite caught on in the Indian sub-continent. The owner one of the popular supermarkets said, "Perhaps only one in a thousand drink green tea. While we do stock it, it moves very slowly. It is mainly foreigners who ask for it. As compared to regular tea that sells about 70 kg a month, only 10 kg a month of green tea is sold."
This could perhaps be because we are not used to drinking tea without adding milk and sugar, said a spokesperson from the R&D department of a leading tea manufacturing company in South India. But she added that no one could deny the health benefits of green tea.
"While we do not actively recommend that they take green tea, a few of our clients who have been losing weight quite successfully have been drinking it regularly," said a dietician of a leading weight-loss clinic in the city.
"My skin seemed to clear up when I started drinking green tea, on the recommendation of a friend who is in tea business," said boutique-proprietor . Not everyone however has positive things to say about this tea.
A cultivated taste
Diet-conscious Maya confesses, "I tried green tea but it tasted like sawdust in hot water to me!" Green tea experts say that this may be because the average Indian palate is not used to this tea, the flavour of which could be best described as grassy. Obviously green tea has some way to go before it jostles for shelf space in Indian kitchens.
But studies have shown it as being an effective remedy for colds and flu, and there are statistics that show entire villages in the green tea belt of China showed fewer incidences of cancer and other illnesses when compared with the national norm.
If that doesn't get you exclaiming "Wah Green", nothing will.
Tea facts
 Boosts your immune system 
* Lowers blood sugar 
* Helps prevent cavities and tooth decay 
* Helps reduce the risk of cancer 
* Lowers cholesterol 
* Aids in weight loss 
* Reduces high blood pressure 
* Prevents arthritis 
* Reduces the risk of heart disease 
* Reduces the risk of stroke
Perfect brew 
Cool boiling water in a teapot to the proper temperature. Put green tea leaves in an empty teapot. Pour hot water over the tea leaves. Cover the lid and wait for a while before serving (approximately three minutes). 
You may brew green tea a few times from the same tea leaves The first cup could be a little stronger but will blander every time you add water to the same tea leaves 
Editor’s Note

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Broccoli Compounds may protect Joint Health

Antioxidant-boosting compounds found in broccoli and other plants appear to block an enzyme that triggers inflammation in joints.

The phytonutrient called sulphoraphane, the compound has already been shown to fight cancer cell growth. But new experiments on human cells show that a diet rich in sulphoraphane might also be good for arthritic joints, or for sportspeople putting their joints under a lot of pressure.

 A team from Johns Hopkins university added the broccoli compound to a dish containing chondrocyte cells from human joints. After 24 hours, the cells were subjected to a stress test designed to mimic aspects of strenuous exercise on a joint.

 Heavy exertion can cause the joints to increase the levels of COX-2 enzyme in joints, which triggers inflammation and pain, and suppresses the activity of phase 2 enzymes. This ultimately kills chondrocytic cells, and when chondrocytes stop functioning properly, arthritis can develop.

  But sulphoraphane has previously been found to boost the activity of helpful phase 2 enzymes, and the laboratory test confirmed this effect.

  "The beneficial phase 2 enzymes somehow seemed to prevent the activation of the inflammatory COX-2 enzyme," said graduate student Zachary Healy, lead author of the paper published in the 27 September edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol 102, no 39, 14010-14015).

   "The phase 2 enzymes inhibited the inflammation and the apoptosis - the cellular suicide we'd observed."

 Healy suggests that supplements of the natural compounds could be used prior to sport. Further, prescription drugs like Vioxx keep COX-2 enzyme at bay by temporarily blocking its ability to send the biochemical signals that set off pain and inflammation. When the medication is stopped, the stockpiled COX-2 enzyme can resume its damaging ways.But the phase 2 enzyme inducers seemed to stop the increasing activity of COX-2 enzyme.

 "This has the potential for stopping pain and inflammation before they start," said Healy.

 The findings prove timely as the withdrawal of Cox-2 inhibitor drugs last year encourages consumers to look at natural substances to relieve joint pain.

   At the same time, incidence of osteoarthritis is rapidly rising around the world due both to ageing populations and increasing levels of obesity.

 "The results need to be tested in an animal model and then because these compounds are readily available in foods, we could probably move quickly to testing them in a clinical trial,".

Vegetable compound stops Breast Cancer cell

The broccoli compound sulphurophane disrupts the growth of breast cancer cells in later stages, a US team has found. They say their study reveals for the first time a possible explanation for the compound’s well-known anti-cancer activity

Keith Singletary and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign exposed cultures of malignant human breast cancer cells to sulphoraphane. Within hours, it had blocked cell division and disrupted microtubules, which are long, slender cylinders made up of tubulin (protein), that are essential for the separation of duplicated chromosomes during cell division.

"This is the first report to show how the naturally occurring plant chemical sulforaphane can block late stages of the cancer process by disrupting components of the cell called microtubules," said Singletary, a professor in the department of food science and human nutrition. "We were surprised and pleased to find that SUL could block the growth of breast cells that were already cancerous."

Sulphoraphane is abundant in vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale, and when these vegetables are chewed, they release the anti-cancer compound. More than 125 scientific papers have been published on sulphoraphane, broccoli and broccoli sprouts, with many of them focusing on sulphoraphane’s anti-cancer activity, as well as its benefits for heart health.

Since its discovery by a John Hopkins team in 1992, a company called called Brassica Protection Products has been marketing patented concentrated forms of broccoli sprouts - three-day-old broccoli plants said to provide 20 times the concentration of sulphoraphane glucosinolate as found in adult broccoli.

They are currently sold in the US, Japan – where business is already robust - and New Zealand as a vegetable, and the company is looking for partners for use of the ingredient in other applications. It has recently been added to a tea.

However the products do not carry health claims and the new trial, published in the September issue of the Journal of Nutrition (134:2229-2236), lends further scientific support to potential claims in the future.

"It is not yet clear whether the doses required to produce inhibition of tubulin polymerization are higher than those achievable via dietary intakes," write Jackson and Singletary. "However, the results show that tubulin disruption may be an important explanation for SUL's antiproliferative action."

"These findings are significant since SUL's actions appear similar to a group of anticancer drugs currently in use, such as Taxol," added Singletary.

Sulphoraphane works as an ‘indirect antioxidant’, helping to boost the body’s natural Phase 2 enzyme antioxidant defense systems and detoxifying carcinogens before they can damage cells. Typical direct antioxidant molecules, such as vitamins C and E, scavenge one free radical or other oxidant molecule at a time. But this means that once a direct antioxidant molecule binds to a free radical molecule, rendering it harmless, the antioxidant is consumed and is no longer active. They then have to be regenerated.

Sulphoraphane does not work directly on free radicals but up-regulates the defence system, letting the body itself fight free radicals.

The new findings may be helpful in the development of new breast cancer prevention and treatment strategies, according to Singletary. "For example, it may be possible that ingesting SUL in combination with certain natural compounds or drugs could enhance their anticancer effectiveness and reduce side effects."