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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Rooibos is good for you

EXERCISE: A clinical trial participant is helping researchers understand the tea’s health-promoting properties.

CPUT researchers are currently exploring whether Rooibos can play a preventative role in exercise-induced oxidative stress.

The study is the first of its kind and stems from a clinical trial led by Prof Jeanine Marnewick that found conclusive evidence of the health-promoting properties of Rooibos in humans.

EXPERTS: Prof Marnewick and her team of researchers at the Oxidative Stress Research Centre were visited by the SABC’s 50/50 team to report on the rooibos research done at CPUT.

Researchers traced the protective effect of Rooibos in adults who are at risk for heart disease. As part of the clinical trial, participants consumed six cups of Rooibos tea a day over six weeks. Results showed that the consumption of Rooibos decreased oxidative stress and cholesterol.

“Because of the results, we thought we would look at another population, not in terms of disease, but in terms of lifestyle,” said Prof Marnewick.

MONITOR: A researcher watches on as a participant completes an exercise.

The current study, which is being conducted in conjunction with Prof Simon Davies from the Sports Management Department, is looking at whether the intake of a Rooibos supplement can reduce oxidative stress that occurs during certain sporting activities.

Oxidative stress can be defined as an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants in favor of the oxidants. Free radicals are a good example of oxidants, as they are unstable molecules that can cause damage to important cell components, such as genetic material, lipids and proteins. One of the sources of free radicals in our body can include strenuous exercise when our cells use oxygen to produce energy

Research has found that oxidative stress plays a role in the development of a whole range of diseases, including cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimers.

Prof Marnewick said although the body has its own anti-oxidant defense system, which combats the free radicals, it very often is not sufficient under certain conditions including strenuous physical activity.

The study will determine whether or not the intake of Rooibos, which contains a unique blend of anti-oxidants, can assist with combating the free radicals, in a bid to protect human cells.

Currently 44 male students are participating in the clinical trial, which are held at CPUT’s Human Performance Lab at the Mowbray Campus.

PREPARATION: Researchers prepare a participant for one of the exercises.

The trial sees students consuming Rooibos or placebo supplements, produced by CPUT, before participating in various exercises.

DEEP BREATH: Participants are closely monitored.

 “We draw blood before, during and after the exercise. This is to measure various biochemical parameters as well as monitor certain exercise performance outcomes” said Marnewick.

The trial, which started in May, will culminate in December. Thereafter the lab work will begin, with the results expected for release in 2012.

By Candes Keating

Photographs: Clive von Metzinger

Written by CPUT News