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Green Tea May Protect
Against Stomach Disorder

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A regular cup of green tea may help prevent chronic stomach inflammation that can lead to stomach cancer, a new study shows.

A number of studies have suggested green tea drinkers have lower odds of developing stomach cancer compared with people who favor other types of leaves or refuse tea altogether. Now new research suggests a possible route green tea takes in cutting stomach cancer risk--it may lower the odds of chronic gastritis, long-term stomach inflammation that can precede cancer.

In a study of more than 600 Chinese men and women, researchers found that green tea drinkers were about half as likely as non-drinkers to have stomach cancer or gastritis. In China, stomach cancer is the most common cancer among men and women.

A team led by Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang of the University of California, Los Angeles, reports the findings in the May issue of the International Journal of Cancer.

``This is the first time that green tea drinking was found to protect against chronic gastritis,'' Zhang said in a statement. ``The study suggests that using green tea to treat chronic gastritis and as a preventive therapy in high-risk populations would reduce the incidence of stomach cancer in the long term.''

Zhang and his colleagues came to their conclusions after examining health and lifestyle factors among men and women with stomach cancer or gastritis, and among healthy individuals. They questioned the participants on their diets, smoking and drinking habits, family history of digestive cancers and other factors that might affect their risk of stomach disorders.

The investigators found that the healthy individuals were more likely than patients with either stomach condition to be green tea drinkers. Even after considering other health factors, green tea consumption was linked to lower odds of gastritis and stomach cancer. And the more often and longer people drank green tea, the lower their stomach cancer risk was.

Experts believe that a number of factors can raise the risk of stomach cancer--including diets high in smoked and salted meats but low in produce and fiber, smoking, family history of the disease and previous stomach surgery. In addition, infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which can cause chronic gastritis and ulcers, has been linked to stomach cancer--although the vast majority of people who harbor the bacteria do not develop the cancer.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Zhang noted that while green tea has taken on health-food status in the US, in China the beverage often goes hand-in-hand with drinking and smoking. ''People use it to treat hangovers,'' he said.

This, according to Zhang, argues against the idea that green tea drinkers in China have a generally healthful lifestyle that wards off disease.

How green tea might protect the stomach is unclear. But Zhang pointed out that the beverage contains antioxidants, which help prevent damage to healthy cells. Since green tea has significantly less caffeine than coffee does, having a couple of cups per day would likely bring health benefits with no downside, according to Zhang.

SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer 2001;92:600-604.


Reference Source 89

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