'Drinking rooibos tea can prevent heart disease'

It's understood numerous studies have reaffirmed that rooibos tea could avoid illness.

A cup of tea. Picture: Free Images.

JOHANNESBURG - In a global commitment to reduce the risk of heart disease, the South African Rooibos council has encouraged citizens to make a healthy heart choice, by incorporating the beverage into their diets.

The council says numerous studies have reaffirmed that the rooibos tea could avoid illness.

Studies show that drinking rooibos prevents the liver from storing excessive fat under the skin and around major organs.

It not only reduces the number and size of fat cells, but completely prevents the development of fatty liver disease a condition where fat accumulates in the cells of the liver.

These findings add further weight to an earlier South African study led by Professor Jeanine Marnewick, a specialist researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology who was able to show a positive effect in adults at risk of heart disease, who drank six cups of Rooibos every day for six weeks.

Her study showed that Rooibos not only protected against oxidative lipid damage, but also favorably improved the lipid profile of the participants by reducing total blood cholesterol levels by 10%, with a significant reduction in "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.

A third study conducted in Sweden found that 30 to 60 minutes after drinking 400 ml of Rooibos, the activity of a specific enzyme (called angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ace) is significantly suppressed. This enzyme is believed to be involved in the development of cardiovascular disease, and therefore ace inhibitors are used to treat hypertension and heart disease.

Ernest du Toit, spokesperson for the council says it is very encouraging that leading research institutions around the world are working on Rooibos and are repeatedly producing such promising results.

"With more South Africans dying from heart disease and stroke than ever before, these studies underline the value of Rooibos as a widely available, affordable and uniquely South African product rich in dietary antioxidants, which promotes heart-health.

"Rooibos, in combination with an overall healthy diet with whole grains, fish, fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods, could significantly reduce the risk of heart disease," says du Toit.

Celebrated on the 29 September, World Heart Day aims to raise global awareness of cardiovascular disease and its prevention.

According to the World Heart Federation, at least 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could be avoided if the main risk factors, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, are controlled.