A Guide to the Health Benefits of Green Tea
Compiled and Edited by Edward Esko
"In the Shizuoka prefecture, which cultivates tea as it has for nearly twelve centuries, the incidence of cancer is unusually low, even by Japanese standards. The residents of the area drink about ten small cups a day and use tea leaves only once, rather than brewing several infusions from the same leaves, as most Japanese do."
--Diana Rosen, The Book of Green Tea
|Benefits of Green Tea||Green Tea and the Heart||Green Tea and Your Skin|
|Short Takes on Green Tea||Green Tea in the News||Green Tea and Weight Control|
|Green Tea and Weight Control||Green Tea and Cancer|
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) has been an integral part of life in China and Japan for centuries. These countries have always claimed that green tea has great health benefits. Only recently has traditional medical science investigated these claims. Over the past several years hundreds of articles have been published in prestigious scientific journals. These studies come from all over the world confirming these claims.
EGCg, or epigallocatechin gallate, is one of the antioxidant compounds--known as catechins--in green tea. Researchers at the University of Kansas estimate the antioxidant power of EGCg to be about 100 times greater than that of vitamin C and 20 times greater than that of vitamin E in protecting the body's cells from free radical damage. Scientists consider EGCg to be one of the most promising anticancer compounds ever discovered.
Antimicrobial Properties of Green Tea Cited: In an article "Herbs in Combating Antimicrobial Resistance" published in the April 2004 issue of Natural Pharmacy, authors Kathy Abascal and Eric Yarnell cite tea's antimicrobial properties.
The authors point to controlled studies in humans showing that tea extracts have preventive or therapeutic effects in dental caries, gastrointestinal (GI) dysbiosis, and chronic gastritis. In animal studies, tea extracts cured guinea pigs infected with shigellosis within three days, while control animals died within 24 hours.
Green tea constituents have shown in laboratory studies to have significant bactericidal action against Escherichia coli 057:H7, the organism responsible for fatal outbreaks of gastroenteritis and hemolytic-uremic syndrome following consumption of contaminated meat.
Tea extracts also show bactericidal action against Staphylococcus and Yersinia, and to inhibit methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) in vitro.
The authors state: "Along similar lines, extracts of green tea have been found reverse resistance in MRSA, as well as penicillin resistance in beta-lactamase-producing S. aureus." They point out that EGCG, one of the powerful antioxidant catechins in green tea, "markedly reduced the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of oxacillin and other beta-lactam antibiotics for MRSA."
The authors conclude their review of the antimicrobial properties of tea by stating: "These data strongly suggest a potential utility for tea in managing a variety of infectious conditions, particularly of the skin and GI tract, and particularly in instances in which beta-lactam antibiotics are prescribed. Of further benefit is that tea has a high safety profile."
Source: Natural Pharmacy Vol. 8 No. 2, April 2004
Green Tea in Cardiovascular Health and Longevity: Researchers around the world, from Hong Kong to the Netherlands, have shown that green tea lowers blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Part of green tea's action is antioxidant and therefore it is valuable in anti-aging. It has also been reported that elements of green tea prolong the life span in stroke-prone individuals, protect against genetic mutations, and are effective against a wide variety of cancers. In a study published in May 2002 in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, it was reported that drinking tea might dramatically lower a person's chances of dying following a heart attack. Heavy tea drinkers (those who drank two or more cups of tea a day) had a 44 percent lower death rate following a heart attack than those who don't drink tea. Researchers speculate that flavonoids (antioxidants found naturally in green tea) protect the heart by relaxing the blood vessels so blood can flow more easily.
Tea and Heart Health: In a study published in May 2002 in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, it was reported that drinking tea might dramatically lower a person's chances of dying following a heart attack. Heavy tea drinkers -- those who drank two or more cups of tea a day -- had a 44% lower death rate following a heart attack than those who don't drink tea. Researchers believe that flavonoids -- antioxidants found naturally in green tea -- protect the heart by relaxing the blood vessels so blood can flow more easily.
Chinese Green Tea Appears to Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: Chinese green tea has beneficial high cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering effects. Teresa Tricia Bautista, M.D. presented a pilot study in which 15 patients with elevated cholesterol who were not regular tea drinkers were asked to consume a cup of green tea three times daily for 2 weeks. Dr. Bautista, of University of Santo Tomas Hospital in the Philippines presented her study at Wonca 2004, the conference of the World Organization of Family Doctors. Ten patients completed the the study. Mean serum total cholesterol was reduced from 235 mg/dL at baseline to 187 mg/dL. Mean LDL declined from 144 to 137 mg/dL. Blood pressure fell from 130/87 mm Hg at baseline to 117/81 mm Hg after the first week and 118/80 mm Hg after the second week, according to Dr. Bautista.
Green Tea and Skin Health: Green tea has well known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A report in the February 1999 issue of Photochemical Photobiological Journal from prestigious Case Western Reserve showed that topically applied EGCg (one of the most beneficial catechins in green tea) decreases the direct effects of sunburn. EGCg also significantly reduces the metabolic changes in skin that lead to skin cancer and aging. It has been shown that green tea applied to skin as well as ingested can significantly reduce the formation of wrinkles.
Green Tea Touted for Skin Health: A news item published in the August 2002 issue of Insights magazine distributed through Marriot hotels cited the benefits of green tea in skin health. Titled "Green Tea: Sunscreen in a Cup -- Protect Your Skin from the Inside Out" the item stated that "drinking green tea may help prevent sun-induced skin damage, including cancer." The article credits "antioxidants called polyphenols that reduce cell damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation." Green Tea Complex is especially high in protective polyphenols. The item cited research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Green Tea and Skin Rejuvenation: An article posted on EurekAlert! in April 2003 reported on research being conducted by Dr. Stephen Hsu, a cell biologist at the Medical College of Georgia on the cell rejuvenating properties of green tea. Dr. Hsu has studied the effects of tea over the past several years and helped establish the role of green tea polyphenols in cancer prevention. His recent studies on EGCg, the most abundant green tea polyphenol, reveal that EGCg causes cells in the epidermis to revive. "When exposed to EGCg, the old cells found in the epidermis start dividing again," Dr. Hsu said. "They make DNA and produce more energy. They are reactivated...if we can energize dying skin cells, we can probably improve the skin condition." The article noted the potential benefit of EGCg for skin conditions such as ulcers, psoraisis, rosacea, wrinkles, and wounds. Contact: Christine Hurley Deriso ([email protected])
Green Tea and Oral Health: One of the foremost pharmaceutical colleges in the United States, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, reported in the Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers Preview that rinsing the mouth with a green tea solution causes high levels of EGCg to appear in the saliva. It seems that green tea is absorbed by the oral mucosa. This can not only help prevent cancers of the mouth and esophagus, but also destroys the bacterial that cause tooth decay.
Green Tea and Arthritis: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science reported a study from the Department of Rheumatic Diseases at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in their April 1999 issue. The study showed that the antioxidant rich polyphenols in green tea could prevent the onset of collagen-induced arthritis. This is the type of arthritis seen in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosis. These studies showed that these polyphenols could modulate the severity of these diseases in humans.
Green Tea and Allergies: An article by Jennifer Warner, published by WebMD in September 2002, cited the role of green tea antioxidants in preventing allergic reactions. Japanese researchers announced finding an ingredient in green tea that blocks a key process in allergic responses and the symptoms that result. In laboratory tests, the EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea was discovered to block production of two substances that trigger and sustain allergic reactions--histamine and immunoglobulin E, or IgE. "Green tea appears to be a promising source for effective anti-allergenic agents," stated Hirofumi Tachibana, associate professor of chemistry at Kyushu University in Japan. "If you have allergies, you should consider drinking it." Researchers state people have used tea for centuries to relieve cold and allergy symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes even without definitive proof of its therapeutic effects. The study was published in the October 9, 2002 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry (webmed.lycos.com).
Green Tea and Stress Reduction: L-theanine, a nonessential amino acid found in tea leaves has been found to reduce stress and anxiety without tranquilizing side effects. An article in the October/November 2002 issue of Natural Health states "This amino acid may calm you in 30 minutes or less without drowsiness." According to the article, L-theanine stimulates the brain's production of alpha waves that produce a state of relaxed alertness without drowsiness. L-theanine stimulates the body to produce other calming substances, including dopamine and tryptophan. Scientific studies are now revealing the mechanism through which green tea induces a state of alert relaxation.
Health Benefits of Tea Featured in TIME: In an article entitled Steeped in Health: Ordinary tea may help fight cancer, heart disease and now infection published in the May 5, 2003 issue of TIME, author Christine Gorman reports on a new study showing that tea drinking boosts the immune system. "This is the first report of tea affecting the immune system," said Dr. Jack Bukowski, co-author of the study conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The study found that drinking 20 oz. of tea daily for a minimum of two weeks doubled or tripled the immune system's production of interferon gamma, an infection-fighting substance. The author points out that this is not the first study showing health benefits of tea, stating that "over the years, credible claims have been made that tea may help protect against various forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, and rheumatoid arthritis."
New York Times Praises Green Tea: In an article entitled, Read It and Steep published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine (1/19/03), Jonathan Reynolds cites the health benefits of green tea. He refers to the foreword to the cookbook Eat Tea, in which Dr. Mitch Gaynor, director of oncology at the Weill Medical College, states that green tea lowers the risk of skin and esophageal cancer, heart disease, and bacterial infections such as tooth decay and influenza. Reynolds also mentions a 1998 Harvard Study in which drinking one cup of green tea daily was found to reduce the risk of heart attack by 44% and lower the risk of stomach, esophageal, and kidney cancer.
Tea Council Sponsors Ads: In September 2002 The Tea Council placed full page ads in USA Today and other leading newspapers touting the health benefits of tea. Presented as an "open letter to tea drinkers," the ad opened with the headline, "Are you drinking enough tea?" The ad reported on the Symposium on Tea and Health that met the week before at USDA auditorium in Washington: "Last week, the Third International Symposium on Tea and Human Health discussed the latest research focusing on the important contributions tea makes to our health. Thanks to an abundance of flavonoid antioxidants, tea is being closely examined for its potential contributions to heart health and its apparent protective effects against chronic diseases." Recent studies suggest a beneficial link between drinking tea and cardiovascular health, lower cancer risk, and increasing bone density. Contact: www.teausa.com.
Tea's in the Bag for Good Health: A Reuters wire story in September 2002 cited the health benefits of tea. The article stated, "Solid evidence is mounting that drinking tea can prevent cell damage that leads to cancer, heart disease and perhaps other ills." The article quoted Jeffery Blumberg, a nutritionist at Tufts University in Boston. "In some respects, it is good to think of it as a plant food," Blumberg stated after a meeting sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Tea Council, the American Cancer Society, and other groups in Washington, D.C. Blumberg said that tea contains phytochemicals, plant compounds that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants offset the damage done to the DNA in cells, thought to be a first step toward cancer and other illnesses.
Green Tea Promotes Healthy Weight: Of the four primary polyphenols in green tea, research reveals that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most effective. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, whole Green Tea Complex can increase thermogenesis, thus stimulating weight loss.
- Components in green tea can increase thermogenesis by up to over 40%. What makes green tea so revolutionary is this simple fact: green teaps ability to stimulate thermogenesis (heat creation increases metabolic rate which in turn stimulates weight loss) is not accompanied by an associated increase in heart rate. Scientists have found that green tea stimulates thermogenesis and this effect cannot be completely attributed to its caffeine content because the thermogenic effect of green tea is greater than an equivalent amount of caffeine.
- Clinical studies conducted by Dr. Abdul Dulloo, of the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that green tea weight loss programs raise metabolic rates and accelerate fat oxidation.
- The investigators measured the 24-hour energy expenditure of 10 healthy men receiving three doses of caffeine (50 mg), green tea extract (containing 50 mg caffeine and 90 mg EGCG), or a "dummy" placebo per day. The study authors report that, compared with placebo, subjects taking green tea extract had a "significant increase" (+4%) in daily energy expenditure.
- As Dr. Abdul Dulloo mentioned about this experimental green tea weight loss program, "Stimulation of thermogenesis and fat oxidation by the green tea extract" did not raise subjects' heart rates, the researchers note. This may render green tea superior to stimulant diet drugs, which can have adverse cardiac effects, especially in "obese individuals with hypertension and other cardiovascular complications."
- Green tea is the first and only all natural fat burning product which can selectively increase fat oxidation without jitters and mood swings, increased heart rate, heart palpitations, and other similar side effects associated with Ma-Haung, (ephedrine). Researchers theorize that one of green tea's mechanisms of action relies on the synergy between EGCG and caffeine. These effects heighten the impact of norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter that plays a large role in the control of thermogenesis and fat oxidation for weight loss.
- In addition to its weight loss effect, green tea protects against a number of conditions that are very common among the obese:
- Green tea has been found to reduce the risk of having a stroke.
- Green tea has anti-cancer and anti-tumor effects.
- Green tea can also improve glucose/insulin levels and blood lipid profile.
Green Tea Blocks Cancer Enzyme: Approximately 1/3rd of the weight of dried green tea leaves consists of a flavonoid called catechin. Of the four types of green tea catechins, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is the most abundant. EGCG is the component of green tea that has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells.
Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK, and University of Murcia in Spain, conducted a study of EGCG after investigations showed that the chemical structure of methotrexate, a common cancer drug, was similar to that of ECGC. As reported in Cancer Research, the investigators isolated EGCG from green tea leaves and tested its effect on an enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), which furthers the growth of cancer cells. The test revealed that EGCG levels found in tissue and blood samples of people who drank green tea were sufficient to bind DHFR, inhibit the growth of cells, and induce apoptosis, biological reactions that cause cancer cells to self-destruct.
The researchers discovered that the EGCG levels that inhibited cancer could be achieved by drinking two or three cups of green tea per day.
EGCG Inhibits Leukemia: Researchers at Kyushu University in Japan, in an attempt to understand the mechanism that makes EGCG (the primary green tea catechin) effective against cancer, focused on a cancer receptor cell known as 67 LR. Many tumors produce a large amount of this cell, which responds to chemicals with electrical signals. Scientists believe that 67 LR is one of the key agents that furthers the spread of cancer.
The researchers noted that the growth of lung cancer cells was inhibited by exposure to EGCG at concentrations equivalent to only three cups of green tea.
Soon after the Kyushu study was reported, another study of EGCG was published in the journal Blood. Investigators at the Mayo Clinic looked at the interaction between EGCG from green tea and cancer cells taken from patients diagnosed with B-cell chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common form of the disease.
This study also examined a receptor cell, called VEGF, which supports growth in leukemia. Investigators found that EGCG reduced the VEGF mechanism, suppressing the growth of new blood vessels necessary for cancer to spread. In 8 of the 10 samples, EGCG initiated the death of cancer cells.
The Mayo Clinic investigators believe that EGCG could be an effective, low-impact therapy for early stage CLL and hope their research will lead to a non-toxic way to treat this disease.
Green Tea and Prostate Cancer: Cancer of the prostate gland is the most common malignancy in males today. Even with successful treatment some patients are left with devastating side effects such as impotence and difficulties with urination. A research study performed at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, which revealed that the catechins in green tea actually kill prostate cancer cells, was announced in April 1999. This finding once again points to the potential benefits to be gained by taking green tea.
Smoking, Lung Cancer and Green Tea: Two important studies on the effects of green tea on smoking and lung cancer were published in April 1999. One study was from the Indiana University School of Medicine and the other from the American Health Foundation in Valhalla, New York. These studies show that green tea inhibits the carcinogenic effects of smoking and also inhibits the growth of malignant lung tumors. These effects are more than just palliative. Green tea can actually be used in the treatment of lung cancer. Although smoking should be discouraged, green tea can be a potent inhibitor of the negative effects in those people addicted to tobacco.
Green Tea and Colon Cancer: An article published in March 2003 by WebMD reported on a study that showed tea had a protective effect against colon cancer. Written by Jeanie Lerche Davis, the article states, "Drink 3 cups a day for cancer-prevention benefits of green tea." The study was conducted by Gayle A. Orner, Ph.D., a researcher with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and published in the February 2003 issue of Carcinogenesis. In a study with tumor-prone mice, the researchers tested green tea, white tea and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), that like aspirin, slows the progression of colon cancer. Mice that were given white tea, green tea, or a low dose of the NSAID had significantly fewer tumors than untreated mice. "This widely consumed beverage may be useful in the prevention of intestinal cancer," stated Dr. Orner. "These are pretty exciting results. What's especially significant is that as far as we can tell, consumption of tea has none of the side-effects of NSAIDs, which can be severe." To get the same colon cancer-prevention benefit as high-dose aspirin, the researchers recommend three mugs of green tea daily.
Green Tea Can Block Cancer: The BBC News in August 2003 reported on a study by researchers at Rochester University suggesting that "green tea's ability to fight cancer is even more potent and varied than scientists suspected." The researchers found chemicals in green tea shut down a key molecule that can play a role in the development of cancer. The molecule--the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, or AH--can activate genes in a harmful way. Dioxins and tobacco smoke cause the molecule to trigger potentially harmful gene activity. Two chemicals in green tea--similar to the anti-cancer flavonoids in cabbage, broccoli, grapes, and red wine--inhibit AH activity.
"Green tea may work differently than we thought to exert its anti-cancer activity," stated researcher Thomas Gasiewicz. "It's likely that the compounds in green tea act through many different pathways." The researchers discovered that the chemicals in green tea shut down the AH receptor in cancerous mouse cells. Preliminary research indicates the same is true in human cells. The research appeared in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Green Tea Compound Blocks Bladder Tumors in Rats: NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Injection of a chemical found in green tea blocks the growth of bladder tumors in rats, according to a report published in the September issue of The Journal of Urology.
- An EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) dose was identified that could kill 100% of cancer cells after two hours of incubation.
- The authors then tested EGCG on rats implanted with tumor cells. Thirty minutes after tumor cell injection, some of the animals were treated with EGCG, whereas others were not.
- Eighteen of 28 animals (64 percent) treated with EGCG were tumor free three weeks later, the researchers note. In contrast, all 12 untreated animals showed tumor growth.
- The results suggest that EGCG could be a useful treatment for bladder cancer. Moreover, "it is readily available and easily processed from green tea leaves," the authors state
Green Tea Fights Colon Cancer: An article published in March 2003 by WebMD reported on a study that showed tea had a protective effect against colon cancer. Written by Jeanie Lerche Davis, the article states, "Drink 3 cups a day for cancer-prevention benefits of green tea." The study was conducted by Gayle A. Orner, Ph.D., a researcher with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and published in the February 2003 issue of Carcinogenesis. In a study with tumor-prone mice, the researchers tested green tea, white tea and a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), that like aspirin, slows the progression of colon cancer. Mice that were given white tea, green tea, or a low dose of the NSAID had significantly fewer tumors than untreated mice. "This widely consumed beverage may be useful in the prevention of intestinal cancer," stated Dr. Orner. "These are pretty exciting results. What's especially significant is that as far as we can tell, consumption of tea has none of the side-effects of NSAIDs, which can be severe." To get the same colon cancer-prevention benefit as high-dose aspirin, the researchers recommend three mugs of green tea daily.
Green Tea Lowers Breast Cancer Risk: Researchers at the University of Southern California led by Anna H. Wu reported data suggesting consumption of green tea reduces a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers studied the dietary and lifestyle habits of 501 women with breast cancer and 594 women who were cancer free living in the same region of Los Angeles. The women were between the ages of 25 and 74. All were Asian Americans of Japanese, Filipino, or Chinese descent.
Both groups were generally alike in terms of height, weight, and age at which puberty began. Notable differences included more children among the cancer-free group, a greater consumption of soy foods, and more exercise. However, the most striking difference between the two groups was that the healthy women were far more likely to drink green tea.
Drinking on average up to 85 milliliters (less than 6 tablespoons) of green tea daily lowered a woman's risk of breast cancer by almost 30 percent, compared to the women who did not drink green tea. Women who drank more than 85 milliliters of green tea per day enjoyed up to 50 percent less risk of breast cancer. An organic green tea whole food supplement, such as Kina Green Tea Complex, can help provide this daily dosage. One serving of Green Tea Complex is equivalent to 6 tablespoons of brewed tea. Moreover, its unique processing method preserves all the beneficial antioxidants found in fresh tea leaves. Usual green tea processing methods, plus the use of hot water to brew tea, can destroy these protective nutrients.
Japanese Americans drank the most green tea, about 160 milliliters daily, roughly 60 percent more than Chinese Americans and more than six times as much as women of Filipino descent did. Cancer patients were more likely not to drink tea than the healthy women were. Among women with breast cancer who did drink tea, a smaller percentage drank green tea. Cancer patients who drank green tea tended to consume less than the healthy women did.
The researchers found that green tea's apparent benefits were present regardless of other factors that could influence the risk of breast cancer, such as unhealthy habits such as smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol. The cancer-protective effects of green tea persisted no matter how much a woman smoked or drank. Other risk factors--such as consumption of red meat, processed meats, milk, poultry, or coffee; how much she exercised; and whether there was a history of breast cancer in her family.
The researchers noted, "green tea drinkers showed a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer compared to non-green tea drinkers, even after adjusting for age, Asian ethnicity, birthplace, age a menarche" and other risk factors such as menopausal status, use of menopausal hormones, body size, number of pregnancies, and calorie intake.
For more information about the study, contact Anna H. Wu, Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1441 Eastlake Ave., MC 9175, Los Angeles, CA 90089-9175.
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Edward Esko can be contacted at (413) 623-5645. Email [email protected]