Ever wonder why green tea is one of the most popular drinks today? What is it about green tea that makes people want it as part of their regular diet? According to recent research, there is ample reason.
Green tea was first used in China and India, made from steamed and dried leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant, a shrub native to Asia. In medieval Japan, green tea was thought to treat such symptoms as headaches and depression as well as promote urination, relieve toxins and improve digestion. These beliefs are now being scientifically proven.
Current research has provided evidence that green tea can prevent or treat various types of cancer, as well as hypertension, high cholesterol, premature aging, food poisoning, arthritis, dental decay and bad breath.
So what’s green tea’s “magic” ingredient that may prevent or cure so many diverse symptoms? Green tea is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin-3-gallate, a powerful antioxidant known to slow down the aging process. The chemical has been shown to not only prevent the growth of cancer cells, but also kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.
EGCG is also effective in lowering bad cholesterol levels and reducing the possibility of blood vessel blockage due to high levels of bad cholesterol. Another benefit of EGCG involves the inhibition of abnormal blood clotting-known as thromboses-as they are the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes. Apart from these catechin polyphenols, green tea, just like black tea, contains fluoride and vitamins. And while tea contains caffeine, the amounts are far less than those in coffee (approximately 30-60 milligrams of caffeine in a cup of tea, compared to over 100 mg in the same amount of coffee).
Antioxidants in green tea are able to neutralize the damaging effects free radicals that can form in the presence of oxygen. Researchers at the University of California have shown that antioxidants slow or prevent cell damage by creating a barrier around cell tissues. Catechin polyphenols (like EGCG) found in green tea are at least 100 times more effective than other antioxidants like vitamin C and 25 times better than vitamin E at protecting from free radicals.
There has been speculation connecting green tea to cancer, but only recently have tea’s possible anti-cancer properties been scientifically explored. Rutgers University researchers have discovered that a compound in black tea called theaflavin-2 killed colorectal cancer cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. Rutgers professor Kuang Yu Chen speculates that the chemical might one day be made into an anti-cancer drug.
Two major new studies have found that drinking green tea helps prevent the development of clogged arteries and reverses poor arterial function that can trigger heart attacks and strokes. In a study at Boston University School of Medicine, heart patients were given either plain water or four cups of black tea daily. In a month, impaired blood vessel function improved by about 50 per cent in the tea drinkers. Researchers suggest that theaflavins are responsible for this improvement.
Catechins also slow the growth of cariogenic, or plaque-causing bacteria by inhibiting the adherence and growth of plaque on the tooth surface. According to the American Society of Microbiology, the polyphenols can block bacteria from producing foul-smelling compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide, in the mouth and hence prevent bad breath.
A recent study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland showed that green tea’s antioxidant EGCG stimulates the body to burn calories. In the study, a daily dose of 270 mg of EGCG (about 2-3 cups of green tea) caused men to burn four per cent more energy-80 extra calories a day.
Research at Pace University found that tea can deactivate herpes, both the kind that causes cold sores and genital herpes, and potentially other viruses in your mouth. A study in Japan showed that gargling with black tea boosted immunity to the influenza virus. Similar effects were found in green tea. Research at Harvard indicated that green tea chemicals stimulated T-cells in blood that, in turn, bolstered immunity against bacteria and viruses.
Still, green tea is no replacement for health-care necessities like a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. Besides, while science has shown a range of potential curative properties of green tea, few studies have attempted to quantify these benefits. Research is ongoing.