More evidence that Rooibos protects the heart

With World Heart Day being celebrated on 29 September 2015, new research findings of a natural, affordable and uniquely South African product that promotes heart health is good news.

A recent study in Spain found that Rooibos helps to reduce cholesterol and other fats and fatty acids in the blood of mice with abnormally high blood fat levels that were fed an unhealthy high-fat, high-cholesterol, western-style diet for 14 weeks.

The findings of a team of researchers, representing several Spanish biomedical research centres and universities, were published in the journal Phytomedicine (15 March 2011, Vol 18, No 5, pp 414 – 424).

The results show that Rooibos can prevent the development of serious health conditions by preventing the liver from storing excessive fat, without increasing the accumulation of fat under the skin and around major organs. Rooibos not only reduced the number and size of the fat cells, but also completely prevents the development of fatty liver disease – a condition where fat accumulates in the cells of the liver. Rooibos probably achieves these health benefits by increasing the body’s metabolic rate.

The researchers also looked at the make-up of the polyphenols in Rooibos and concluded that the complex mix of antioxidants in Rooibos are jointly responsible for its beneficial effects, and that it is therefore better to drink Rooibos tea, rather than isolated compounds from Rooibos.

This study confirms the findings of a 2009 South African study in humans, led by Professor Jeanine Marnewick, a specialist researcher at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She was able to show a very favourable effect in adults, at risk of heart disease, who drank six cups of Rooibos every day for six weeks. Rooibos not only protected against oxidative lipid damage, but also favourably improved the lipid profile of the participants by reducing the total blood cholesterol levels by 10%, with a significant reduction in the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Her study also collected safety data for Rooibos and confirmed that it is safe to drink, with no negative effects on liver or kidney functions, and no effect on iron levels in the blood.

According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.1 million lives a year. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include raised blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight, obesity and physical inactivity.

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