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Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw

fact, one of the nutrient supplements that we take now-a-days is green tea polyphenols. We take the equivalent of about six cups of green teapolyphenols per day, and in epidemiological studies that amount has been shown to provide substantial protection from cancers of the epithelial tissue– that is, skin, lungs, and gut– and also looks as if it probably provides protection from cardiovascular disease as well.

Now, I hasten to add, there is a difference between green tea and the teas people drink in this country, like oolong tea, grey tea, or black tea, which are fermented. In that fermentation process, the polyphenols become oxidized and less active. Now the reason this is done is that the polyphenols tend to bevery bitter substances. That’s why most people will just grit their teeth at green tea, but we have flavor systems that make the green tea polyphenols delicious, not merely palatable. I might also add that if it was just epidemiological data on human beings, then there’s always other possible explanations, but there ismechanistic data and experimental data on animals as well.

Sandy: In addition to the animal studies and the mechanistic studies, there have also been short-term human studies that show beneficial effects of green tea polyphenols on things like the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.

Durk: If you take mice and paint tobacco combustion tars on their skin, and if they’re given green tea polyphenols, you have fewer incidences of cancers developing. It’s the same with ultra-violet exposure of the skin, or with feeding them those carcinogens orally– you get fewer cancers developing in theanimals. We think that there’s going to be an awful lot of work coming out in the next few years about this. There’s already hundreds of papers on the polyphenols. There’ll be a lot of other substances– which are found in foods– that a person can take to provide substantial amounts of protection.

Sandy: One important thing that’s taken place in this country is that there’s been a change in the FDA’s process of controlling the flow of information about substances like phytochemicals and other dietary supplements that have healthful effects.

David: A change in what way?

Sandy: Actually, what’s going on now is the result of a very long period of political warfare which started in the 1970’s over whether people should haveaccess to high potency dietary supplements that contain substances you can get in much smaller amounts in a diet.

David: Are you talking about control of the supplements themselves or control of the information about the supplements?

Sandy: Both.

Durk: Initially the FDA tried to control the supplements by restricting as prescription items any supplement that was more than fifty percent over the RDA.

Sandy: That was back in the 1970’s that they were proposing to do that.

Durk: But Congress got some six million letters on that, and a law was passed prohibiting the FDA from regulating vitamins as drugs.

David: What is the RDA based upon?

Durk: The RDA is based on the opinions of scientific panels published by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science. They are basically set high enough so that most people will not have any symptoms of classical deficiency diseases. For example, sixty milligrams of vitamin C a day isenough so that you won’t get scurvy.

Sandy: In other words, if you don’t have bruises all over your body, your gums aren’t bleeding, and your teeth aren’t getting loose and falling out, then you don’t have scurvy, and you’re getting your RDA of vitamin C.

Durk: There’s a real conceptual problem here. The idea that vitamin C merely prevents scurvy is false. While it’s true that it prevents scurvy, and that a deficiency of it will result in 

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