New evidence that Rooibos protects liver and may help to prevent metabolic disease – findings from Spain

A consortium of researchers in Spain, working at a number of hospitals and universities in the country, have published new evidence that Rooibos tea protects the liver against the accumulation of fat and can help to prevent metabolic diseases. As part of this study, the research team was able to identify 25 different polyphenols (plant antioxidants) in Rooibos. They published their findings in the acclaimed journal Phytomedicine, on 4 January 2011.

The benefits of Rooibos were particularly visible in mice that had elevated levels of fats in their blood after being fed a high-fat Western-type diet. The Rooibos helped to significantly reduce cholesterol, triglycerides and free fatty acids in the blood of these mice. It also changed the number and size of their fat cells and completely prevented the development of fatty liver disease – a condition where fat accumulates in liver cells. The researchers point out that, by preventing the liver from storing excessive amounts of fat, Rooibos may prevent the development of more serious health conditions. This study confirms earlier findings that Rooibos protects the liver against disease.

Based on data gathered during the study, the researchers believe that the effect of Rooibos may be due to the polyphenols in the tea that help to activate a key liver enzyme that, in turn, help to control metabolic processes in the liver cells. This enzyme – also known as AMPK – helps liver cells to switch from producing fatty acids and cholesterol to oxidising (using) fatty acids and glucose. It is a novel and highly relevant finding. They therefore recommend adding polyphenols – found abundantly in Rooibos – to the daily diet.

In line with earlier findings, this research team recommends using the complete Rooibos extract (tea) rather than taking individual, isolated compounds. Earlier Rooibos studies from South Africa showed that people can get the optimum health benefit from drinking six cups of Rooibos spread throughout the day.

Given the worldwide increase in obesity and related medical conditions, the polyphenols in Rooibos are increasingly investigated as a possible way to provide safe and effective complementary therapy. Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a rich source of plant polyphenols without any calories or stimulants (caffeine).

Scientific reference
Beltrán-Debóna, et al. 2011. Continuous administration of polyphenols from aqueous rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) extract ameliorates dietary-induced metabolic disturbances in hyperlipidemic mice.