Compounds found in black tea, apples and chocolate may help protect against heart disease.
Elderly men who consumed the most of theses compounds, called catechins, were 51% less likely to die of ischemic heart disease over 10 years, compared with men who consumed the least. (Ischemic heart disease occurs when narrowed arteries reduce the amount of blood and oxygen getting to the heart.)
Catechins are part of a group of plant compounds called flavonoids that have also been linked to a lower risk of lung disease and certain cancers. Flavonoids are antioxidants, compounds that neutralize disease-causing free radicals in the body.
The average intake of catechins in the study was 72 milligrams, which can be obtained by eating about four apples a day or drinking two cups of tea with a small piece of chocolate. Black tea was the major source of catechins among this group of men.
Exactly how these compounds may guard against certain diseases is not clear. They may work by preventing LDL ("bad") cholesterol from damaging cells, by recycling other antioxidants such as vitamin E, or by reducing the risk of inflammation, which is associated with heart disease.
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