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Rooibos Offers Multiple Health Benefits to UAE Tea-Drinkers

DUBAI, UAE, November 12, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

Caffeine-free tea from South Africa is linked with treatment for diabetes, cancer and heart disease

An herbal tea from South Africa has the potential to offer UAE residents a range of health benefits, according to a leading Dubai-based nutritionist. Rooibos tea has been shown to slow down cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and help with a range of other conditions, including diabetes.

     (Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121112/573733 )

"Rooibos is a national drink in South Africa and very popular with South Africans living in the UAE for its flavour," said Hala Barghout, a clinical dietician and nutritionist. "But it's not just about taste -rooibos contains a complex and unique blend of antioxidants that play a major role in boosting the body's natural defences.

"Rooibos offers a whole array of health benefits. It contains no calories and no caffeine, and researchers have found that it can help to lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, prevent liver disease, slow down cancer, cut the risk of heart disease and stroke and help in the treatment of diabetes."

Anti-diabetes potential

New evidence has just emerged of the anti-diabetes potential of rooibos, following a joint study conducted by the Diabetes Discovery Platform from South Africa's Medical Research Council (MRC) and the South African Agricultural Research Council's (ARC) Infruitec-Nietvoorbij Institute.

Researchers found that an aspalathin-enriched extract of green rooibos is able to lower raised glucose levels in the blood of diabetic rats. Aspalathin is a unique antioxidant found in nature only in the rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis). When combined with rutin, another key compound in rooibos tea, the glucose-lowering action was further enhanced.

Working with diabetic rats, the researchers were able to show that the Rooibos extract could achieve a glucose-lowering effect comparable to existing diabetic drugs.

"Our work confirms the constituents present in rooibos could prove beneficial in the fight against diabetes," said Dr Johan Louw of the MRC, who led the study, which was published last month. "We believe that rooibos can provide a basis to develop a standardised anti-diabetic product. We have also confirmed that the polyphenols in complex mixtures, such as rooibos tea, work synergistically to achieve favourable health effects. This points to the value of drinking the whole tea containing the required amount of these beneficial constituents, rather than a tablet containing just one of the compounds."

Small diet changes - great health benefits

Barghout said that research has also shown rooibos to be effective in easing stomach cramps and other digestive disorders, relieving allergies and soothing itching skin. "Rooibos tea is one of a number of foods and beverages that we can introduce into our daily diet without making any drastic changes in the way we live, and reap great health benefits," she added.

"Substituting regular tea or coffee with rooibos, drinking camel's milk instead of cow's milk, adding kiwifruit to the fruit bowl - these are all easy steps to a healthier lifestyle. In fact, to get the maximum health benefits from rooibos tea, researchers in South Africa recommend the consumption of up to six cups per day, spread throughout the day, including a cup at bedtime."

Fanus Schoeman, South Africa's Consul-General in Dubai, said he believes rooibos tea could gain a large and loyal following in the UAE. "This is a nation of tea-drinkers," he said. "A recent study by the Emirates Industrial Bank showed that the majority of ethnic groups in the UAE drink tea rather than coffee, so there is a large potential market here for rooibos tea. We South Africans drink it primarily for the great and distinctive flavour, but I believe the health benefits will also help rooibos win many new fans in the UAE."

Unique to South Africa

The rooibos plant is indigenous and unique to the Cederberg and surrounding areas of the Western and Northern Cape in South Africa, where rooibos tea is produced. The plant and the tea brewed from it were first documented in 1772, and today the tea can be found in 72% of South African homes. About half the annual production of 12,000 tonnes is exported, and it is already widely available in UAE supermarkets.

The manner in which the rooibos leaves and stems are harvested and dried determines whether the tea will be the traditional amber or red colour or the lighter and milder green variety. Both versions are entirely natural products and contain no colourants, additives or preservatives.

The Rooibos Council in South Africa is currently funding AED 1 million worth of independent research to advance the understanding of the health-promoting properties of rooibos - and in particular its ability to slow down and prevent various forms of cancer as well as its potential to protect heart health in individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease. Other topics being researched include the possibility that rooibos could be beneficial in slowing down the effects of ageing, its anti-obesity properties, its role in post-exercise recovery and its potential in combatting stress.

Notes to editors

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 439 million people will have diabetes by 2030, with the major increase occurring in developing countries.
  • World Diabetes Day is celebrated on 14 November to mark the birthday of Frederick Banting who, along with Charles Best, was instrumental in the discovery of insulin in 1922, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.
  • The MRC/ARC study has been published online in October 2012 in the Journal of Phytomedicine (http://www.phytomedicinejournal.com/article/S0944-7113(12)00320-0/abstract)


SOURCE South African Rooibos Council

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