The English, in particular, like their cup of tea – and, it seems, they could be onto something healthy. Scientists have discovered that tea contains antigens that prime the immune system.
The agents, known as alkylamines, are actually ‘bad guys’ – they are found in bacteria, tumour cells, parasites and fungi. There are just enough of them in tea to put the immune system on guard, but not cause harm. Cells that are exposed to the antigens respond by multiplying up to ten-fold and secreting disease-fighting chemicals.
Cells that had not been previously exposed to the antigens in the tea did not respond when they were introduced.
(Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA. April 21, published online).