Potential Health Benefits of Green Tea
Camellia sinensis, the plant better known as tea plant, has been highly valued for centuries for its health promoting effects. Green tea, which is made from its leaves, is not fermented and so it is less oxidized than black tea and, therefore, more natural. It makes up about 20% of the total tea production. Green tea contains many different disease-fighting flavonoid compounds. Flavonoids act as strong antioxidants in the body to neutralize free radicals.
Green tea contains around 10mg of caffeine per cup. However, decaffeinated green tea is not very much recommended because of the chemical process used to extract the caffeine from the tea leaves. Most common is solvent extraction where chemical solvents are used to extract the caffeine, potentially contaminating the tea.
Green Tea and Weight Loss
Green tea is commonly used for weight loss and studies demonstrate that it actually increases the number of fat calories burned in people with the same energy expenditure. As an added benefit, green tea helps to regulate blood sugar and thus reduces appetite and cravings for food.
Green Tea and Cancer Protection
Theanine is an amino acid abundant in green tea. This powerful compound, which was first extracted from green tea, is now being used for treating mood disorders and has been also shown to enhance the anti-tumor activity of doxorubicin (trade name Adriamycin), a common chemotherapeutic agent. Although green tea has been shown in studies to significantly reduce breast cancer risk in women, no such effect has been observed in women who drank black tea only.
In addition, further studies of green tea effects on cancer cells have suggested a decrease in carcinogenic activity, increased apoptosis in cancer cells and decreased risk of prostate cancer. Another study found an increase in sex hormone binding globulin which lowered estradiol levels and ultimately reduced the risk of developing breast cancer. Yet another trial showed a 69% response rate in cervical dysplasia (a precursor to cervical cancer) when supplemented with green tea extract orally and applied topically to the cervix as opposed to only 10% response rate in the placebo group.
Green Tea and Heart Disease
Daily consumption of green tea has been linked to decreased risk of developing heart disease. One recent observation study demonstrated that each additional cup of green tea a day can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by up to 5%. Moreover, regular consumption of green tea has also been associated with reduced risk of stroke. Add to that the ability of green tea to lower blood cholesterol levels then it is easy to see why green tea is in Chinese folk medicine considered as a fountain of youth.
Antibacterial Effects of Green Tea
Green tea has been also found to reduce the growth of streptococcus in the mouth, thereby decreasing plaque formation. In another study green tea was found to be effective against H. Pylori (this bacterium causes ulcers in the stomach lining and in upper part of the small intestine) in conjunction with antibiotic therapy. In this particular case green tea also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to lower the histamine response by inhibiting the inflammatory cascade of both lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase.
However, green tea contains tannins, which can bind to minerals and decrease their absorption in the body, so you should not take vitamin and mineral supplements with either tea or coffee. In addition, you should not drink strong green tea high in tannins on an empty stomach as it may cause nausea.
The benefits of green tea are normally seen at higher doses averaging about four cups a day. People who do not like the taste of green tea or have problems with its acidity (which is due to tannins) can use green tea supplements. Good quality green tea supplements are usually highly concentrated and one serving is the equivalent of ten cups of tea.
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