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Green Tea Health Benefits: Catechins and Your Health

By Edited Aug 1, 2016 1 2

Which green tea health benefits can be verified? While this tea is purported to cure ailments such as cancer and heart disease or help melt away the pounds, is there solid scientific facts to back up these claims?

Like most health claims for herbal products or alternative remedies, while research has proven some strong health benefits that are furnished by drinking green teas, others have only anecdotal backup and need more research and documentation. Here is a look at some of the better-researched benefits of drinking green tea for your health.

Green Tea Health Benefits in A Cup
Credit: the georgieporgiepib under CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/theporgiepig/

Catechins in Green Tea

Green tea is believed by at least one researcher to be a better source of heart protective antioxidants because it undergoes less processing than other types of teas. Richard Bruno heads up a research team that is studying the effects of green tea on repairing the damages caused by nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases, and he believes the minimal processing of green tea helps preserve the beneficial catechins (polyphenols).

These polyphenols function as antioxidants to help prevent cellular death and damage, neutralize free radicals, and stop the growth of cancer cells. The four catechins found in green tea are:

  • (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)
  • (-)- epicatehnin gallate (ECG)
  • (-) – epigallocatechin (EGC)
  • (-) epicatechin (EC)

Of these four, EGCG is believed to contain the best cancer preventive properties.

Weight Loss

Can sipping green tea help you shed pounds faster? It looks there may be a definite interaction between at least one of the catechins in tea and the body’s metabolic function.

Richard Bruno concurs with other researchers who found that green tea might play a part in an overall weight loss program by revving up the metabolism and burning fats but warns that the effect is limited. A study done at Universitary Medicine Berlin confirmed a link between the most predominant green tea catechin, epigallocatechin3-gallate (EGCG), and increased metabolism and fat oxidation, but an optimum dose was not defined.

Atherosclerosis

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), research such as that done in the Caerphilly study by doctors Hertog, Sweetnam, Fehily, Elmwood and Kromhout shows a demonstrative link between drinking green tea and lowering the risk of developing heart diseases such as atherosclerosis or stroke.

Green Tea and Cancer Preventative Claims

Numerous clinical studies show that green tea may offer some anti-cancer benefits, but according to UMMC, more research needs to be done to decide if it really does prevent cancer. Early results show promise for green tea’s ability to slow or stop the growth of tumors or even kill the cancer cells because of the high proportion of the EGCG cathechin in these teas.  

The UMMC lists the following types of cancer as those that may prove susceptible to the polyphenols  in green tea:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Stomach cancer

This is not any all-inclusive list and future research may show links between other cancers and the beneficial effects of green teas.

Alternative Medicine

Anecdotally, green tea is used in alternative medicine to treat conditions such as indigestion and bleeding.  In addition, blood sugar levels may be stabilized by drinking green tea, and it may speed up healing from wounds. Green tea has been used medicinally for centuries.

Types of Green Teas

Green tea is often used as a base tea for flavored or scented teas such as jasmine tea, but it is also sold separately. Blending the green tea with another tea means you get the advantage of other health benefits as well. For example, jasmine tea benefits may differe slightly from the green tea health benefits so you end up getting more healthy nutrient by consuming the blend.

Some of the more popular types of green teas are:

Gunpowder: This type is named after its resemblance to grains of gunpowder, this tea is rolled into tight little spheres that “explode” in the hot water. The smaller and tighter the pellet is rolled, the higher the quality of the tea.

Dragon Well: During the processing of Dragon Well tea, the fermentation of the tea leaves is stopped by roasting the leaves. Dragon Well tea is aromatic and faintly green; it is believed to be the best tasting of all the green teas.

Sencha: This version is made from dried (not ground) tea leaves; the flavor and aroma are determined by the temperature of the water in which it is prepared.

Matcha: The tea leaves are ground into a powder, which is then mixed with hot water to make the tea.  This is the tea used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, and in addition, it is gaining acceptance by many manufacturers as a food ingredient, with Matcha ice cream being a sought-after delicacy.

Making the Perfect Cup of Tea

How Much Is Enough

As with any food or medication, just because tea contains beneficial antioxidants does not mean that more is better. In fact, consuming too much green tea can be harmful to your health. A moderate approach to adding any herbal tea to your diet is best, and you should consult with your healthcare professional before using green tea or green tea supplements. For instance, if you are interested in reaping jasmine tea benefits rather than green tea benefits, you should ask your doctor about the specific type of tea you want to try.

The UMMC recommends that only adults use it and the amount be limited to two to three cups per day. If you do not like tea and prefer a supplement, their recommendation is 100 to 750 mg daily. While green tea is available in both regular and decaffeinated versions, you might want to ask your health care provider which type would be the best for your situation.

Populations Who Should Not Drink Green Teas

There are groups of people who should only use green tea with their doctor’s approval. These include but are not limited to:

  • Breast feeding women
  • Children
  • Diabetics
  • Pregnant women

In addition to these, if you suffer from anemia, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney or liver disease, or osteoporosis, you should avoid green tea unless your physician recommends its use.

As with any medication, the potential for drug interaction exists. Check with your healthcare provider and tell him or her the names of all the medications you are taking. Cancer patients, in particular, should be wary because green tea may affect their sensitivity to chemotherapy.

Disclaimer

This information is presently solely for educational purposes and is not intended as medical or professional advice.

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Comments

May 2, 2012 3:57pm
askformore
Thank you for the very detailed information about green tea. Thumbs up!
May 2, 2012 7:30pm
DonnaCosmato
Thank you for the vote of confidence and your kind words, askformore. I'm glad you found this article on green tea to be helpful.
May 2, 2012 7:29pm
DonnaCosmato
This comment has been deleted.
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Bibliography

  1. Hertog, MG, Sweetnam, PM, Fehily AM, Elmwood PC, Kromhout D "Antioxidant flavonols and ischemic heart disease in a Welsh population of men: the Caerphilly study." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (1997): 1489 - 1494.
  2. Mitali Pandey and Sanjay Gupta "Green tea and prostate cancer: from bench to clinic." PubMed Central. 17/08/2009. 02/05/2012 <Web >
  3. Undisclosed author "Green Tea." University of Maryland Medical Center. 02/05/2012 <Web >
  4. Otunn-Omara, Elizabeth "Nutritional scientist studies impact of green tea on liver disease." UConn Advance. 02/08/2009. 02/05/2012 <Web >
  5. Boschmann M. Thielecke F "The effects of ECGC on thermogenesis and fat oxidation in obese men: a pilot study." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2007): 389S-395S.

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