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Science explains how tea affects blood pressure

An estimated 1.13 billion people worldwide have hypertension, most (two-thirds) living in low- and middle-income countries.

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Kamal S. has been Journalist and Writer for Business, Hardware and Gadgets at Revyuh.com since 2018. He deals with B2b, Funding, Blockchain, Law, IT security, privacy, surveillance, digital self-defense and network policy. As part of his studies of political science, sociology and law, he researched the impact of technology on human coexistence. Email: kamal (at) revyuh (dot) com

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine have found an explanation for the anti-hypertensive effect of tea. Both green and black contain substances that relax blood vessels by activating ion channel proteins in their walls.

Tea is a very popular drink in several countries of the world, especially in the northern hemisphere of the planet. More than 2 billion cups of tea are consumed every day. It is the most consumed drink in the world, only behind water. It’s mostly sold as black and green, and these have long been associated with a number of health benefits. Among them, the ability to lower blood pressure.

The researchers identified two flavonoid compounds in tea that activate a specific type of ion channel protein called KCNQ5. This allows potassium ions to diffuse out of cells to reduce cell excitability and thus lower blood pressure. Since KCNQ5 is found in the smooth muscles that line blood vessels, when activated by tea these vessels relax, the team explains.

“We discovered through the use of computer modeling and mutagenesis studies that specific catechins (flavonoids) bind to the foot of the voltage sensor, which is the part of KCNQ5 that allows the channel to open in response to cell excitation. This binding allows the channel to open much more easily and earlier in the cellular excitation process,” Abbott explained.

His team also found that adding milk to black tea – as the Americans and British are used to doing – blocked its beneficial effects in activating KCNQ5.

Mass spectrometry, in turn, indicated that heating green tea to 35 degrees Celsius alters its chemical composition in a way that makes it more effective at activating KCNQ5. However, the lead author of the study stressed that there was no need to drink only hot tea.

“Regardless of whether the tea is consumed iced or hot, this temperature is reached after drinking the tea, since the temperature of the human body is about 37 degrees Celsius. Therefore, simply by drinking tea, we activate its beneficial and antihypertensive properties” Abbott explained.

The discovery was made in the laboratory of Geoffrey Abbott, who is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. It is the result of cooperation with scientists from the Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen (Denmark). 

The results were published in the journal Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry.

Up to a third of the world’s adult population suffers from hypertension, so this condition is considered the main risk factor for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality in the world. The findings of the American and Danish researchers could help develop new drugs to lower blood pressure.

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