Green tea began its life in ancient China and is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. It was originally harvested for medicinal purposes and later a method of consumption, drinking, came into vogue. Like many herbs, green tea contains chemicals called polyphenols. Polyphenols, or natural plant compounds, consist of catechins, flavonoids, and tannins – all of which have beneficial effects on the body. The most well researched catechin from tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Let’s look at some of these health promoting benefits!
Reduce disease –heart disease and cancer
Green tea is full of powerful antioxidants that can help to alleviate the harmful effects of cellular inflammation and free radical damage. These free radicals are formed by oxidative damage induced by our environment, poor food choices, and natural metabolism.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America. The anti-oxidant effects of green tea can reduce cardiovascular risk by 11-31%.
Some research also points to the benefits of EGCG on its regulatory mechanism of tumor progression and suppression of oncogenic transcription factors (the basis of cancer cell growth). Green tea extract has yet to show any serious adverse side effects making it a great addition to current treatments.
Animal and in vitro studies show that green tea can have a neuro-protective effect keeping neurons (nerve cells) from becoming damaged. Presenting the premature aging of neurons can be a main mechanism in the prevention of Alzheimer’ disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
The catechins in green tea have also been widely researched in their ability to ward off infections both bacterial and viral.
Burns more calories -Thermogenesis!
Energy expenditure is part of the energy balance equation. Energy balance, in simple terms, is the equation of the amount of energy taken in (calories) and the amount of energy created or burned. Energy expenditure is the amount burned. So, the higher your energy expenditure the greater amount of calories burned. EGCG has been shown to increase energy expenditure, mobilize belly fat, and low serum triglycerides.
A 1999 study published in The American Journal of Nutrition concluded that EGCG increased thermogenesis by 35-43%, with the administration of 90mg of EGCG 3 times per day.
One study published in the Journal of Nutrition looked at about 100 individuals split into 2 groups. One group received the catechins from green tea and the other did not. After a 12-week period, the catechin group displayed a greater loss in abdominal fat and overall weight loss.
Another study cited that a low dose (200mg) of EGCG, in obese men, resulted in more fatty acid oxidation post-prandial (after a meal) and up to 2 hours after. The same study mentioned that high dose EGCG had no additional benefit; but caffeine may aid in fat oxidation, which would encourage the consumption of both brewed green tea and EGCG capsules.
It makes you smarter!
A recent study was published that looked at the ability for green tea extract to increase cognitive function/memory. This was a small study, consisting of 12 males who consumed a green tea based drink and were then subjected to an fMRI (functional MRI). When the men drank the green tea extract they saw an increase in short term synaptic plasticity of the brain or “strengthening of the brain”. Although this is a small study, it is promising for further research.
Green tea also contains caffeine. Caffeine is well known for its stimulant type effects, but current studies are pointing to its memory enhancing capabilities. 160 individuals were shown a series of pictures. The next day they were quizzed on those same pictures, but the testers added or changes some. Those who consumed 200mg of caffeine were able to recognize the differences better than those who had placebo.
I think green tea should be a part of everyone’s healthy diet regimen. For those who are looking to improve your current healthy habits: I recommend 2 cups of organic green tea per day. For reference, 1 cup of green tea has an estimated 20-35mg of EGCG and 40-120mg of caffeine (6oz of coffee has 80-200mg of caffeine).
You can also take standardized extracts of EGCG. This is often preferred and prescribed in addition to drinking green tea as we can guarantee the amounts of EGCG in the caps, but processing of drinkable green can leave the catechin content highly variable.