In a new study from the University of Copenhagen, researchers found compounds in both green and black tea relax blood vessels by activating ion channel proteins in the blood vessel wall.
They found that two catechin-type flavonoid compounds in tea, each activate a specific type of ion channel protein named KCNQ5, which allows potassium ions to diffuse out of cells to reduce cellular excitability.
As KCNQ5 is found in the smooth muscle that lines blood vessels, its activation by tea catechins was also predicted to relax blood vessels.
The discovery helps explain tea’s antihypertensive properties and could lead to the design of new blood pressure-lowering drugs.
Prior studies demonstrated that consumption of green or black tea can reduce blood pressure by a small but consistent amount, and catechins were previously found to contribute to this property.
Identification of KCNQ5 as a novel target for the hypertensive properties of tea catechins may facilitate medicinal chemistry optimization for improved potency or efficacy.
In the study, the team found that when they applied black tea directly to cells containing the KCNQ5 channel, the addition of milk prevented the beneficial KCNQ5-activating effects of tea.
They also found that warming green tea to 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) alters its chemical composition in a way that renders it more effective at activating KCNQ5.
They say regardless of whether the tea is consumed iced or hot, this temperature is achieved after the tea is drunk, as human body temperature is about 37 degrees Celsius.
Thus, simply by drinking tea people can activate its beneficial, blood-pressure-lowering properties.
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The study is published in Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry. One author of the study is Geoffrey Abbott.
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