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Green Tea and Apples May Help Prevent Heart Disease, Cancer

Apr 14, 2015 03:27 PM EDT
green tea, apples

(Photo : Institute of Food Research)

Green tea and apples may help to prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer, according to new research.

This isn't the first time it has been suggested that both of these foods could help protect our health. Previous research claimed that the antioxidant-rich drink could potentially fight cancer, including oral cancer, while fruits such as apples have been linked to a decreased risk of stroke.

In addition, dietary studies have shown that people who eat the largest amounts of fruit and vegetables have a reduced risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer, and these latest findings add to that growing evidence. Scientists from the Institute of Food Research (IFR), who led the study, believe that it's due to high amounts of compounds called polyphenols, which are naturally found in fruit and vegetables and could provide protective health benefits.

During the study, described in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, scientists discovered that polyphenols in green tea and apples block a signaling molecule called VEGF - which in the body can trigger atherosclerosis (buildup of fats/cholesterol on artery walls) and is a target for some anti-cancer drugs.

In the body, VEGF is a main driver of blood vessel formation in these cell types via a process called angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is crucial in cancer progression, as well as in the development of atherosclerotic plaques and plaque rupture which can cause heart attacks and stroke.

Using cells derived from human blood vessels in the lab, the IFR team found that low concentrations of the polyphenols epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) from green tea and procyanidin from apples stopped a crucial signaling function of VEGF.

While prior studies have suggested that dietary polyphenols can inhibit VEGF signaling, this is the first to provide evidence that polyphenols can directly interact with VEGF to block its signals, and at the levels you would see in the blood stream after eating polyphenol rich foods.

"If this effect happens in the body as well, it provides very strong evidence for a mechanism that links dietary polyphenols and beneficial health effects," Dr. Paul Kroon, Research Leader at IFR, said in a news release.

What's more, Kroon and his colleagues were surprised to find that the polyphenols also activated another enzyme signaling system that generates nitric oxide in the blood, which helps widen the blood vessels and prevent damage.

So the next time you're craving a snack, maybe instead reach for a cup of green tea and an apple, because it just may protect your health.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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