Sunday, October 28, 2007

Green Tea and Health - A perspective study of the truths and the myths

For a long time now, I've been hearing about the health benefits of Green Tea, and when I see the skinny chinese and asians roaming around in my office sipping tall cups of green tea or herb tea, I am all the more intrigued to find the truth behind the hype of this tea, and why it is labelled to be "Healthy", and whether there is any real substance to this claim. So I finally decided to get all the information about this herbal concoction, and here I present to you the facts, with the associated myths, to help you make your own choice!

Ordinary tea, as most people know it, comes from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. There are three main types of tea: green tea, oolong tea, and black tea, categorized according to their oxidation levels (called the fermentation process). Green tea is steamed, baked, or pan heated to prevent oxidation and thus the leaves remain green. Unlike green tea, oolong tea is partially fermented, and black tea is fully fermented. So why is green tea getting all the attention in the health world? It's mainly because of the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3 gallate ( EGCG ), the main component considered good for one's health which is preserved in green tea but lost in oolong and black varieties when fermented. Antioxidants are thought to prevent free radicals.

A little scientific knowledge is in order here. What is a Free Radical, you may ask. Well, in scientific sense, a free radical is any molecular species capable of independent existence, that contains one or more unpaired electrons not contributing to intermolecular bonding, and is, in that sense, "free". In the human body, oxidized free radicals are believed to cause tissue damage at the cellular level, causing damage to our DNA, mitochondria and cell membrane, and have often been referred to as one of the causes attributed to aging, cancer, heart disease, and other human ailments harmful to one's health, which are aggravated by things such as excessive alcohol intake, smoking, and various chemical exposures. To prevent free radicals from damaging the body, the latter uses a defense system of antioxidants.

The Truth
Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged, and green tea has EGCG as an anti-oxidant which is found to be 100 times more effective than vitamin C, 25 times more effective than Vitamin E and twice as powerful as its peers!

Limited studies have shown gargling with green tea may prevent cavities, and it may slow the course of arthritis by reducing inflammation and retarding cartilage breakdown. Early research on a product called FertilityBlend, which contains green tea extracts, shows it may help women to conceive. Regular consumption of green tea is purported to possibly reduce the risk of heart attack and clogged arteries. This drink may also help asthma sufferers. Because it contains theophylline (a muscle relaxant), it can help the muscles surrounding bronchial tubes to relax easily. It is also seen to aid in lowering blood pressure by preventing blood clots.

Myth: Green Tea is a Miracle Fat Burner
Green Tea definitely helps boost your metabolism, but the story ends there. There are two reasons why it CANNOT cause your body to burn large amounts of fat. First, the actual increase in your metabolism from Green Tea is very small, even if you take multiple doses of Green Tea each day. And second, your body probably gets used to this. It can be a prudent choice as it is free of sugar and calories that other beverages may be loaded with. So drink it for its other health benefits, not because someone told you that it'll help you lose weight fast!

Myth: Green Tea Prevents Cancer
There is some supporting evidence to this statement, but most of the supporting research has been done on animals, and not humans. It's not hard to believe, considering the antioxidant properties of tea, but that it prevents prostate and other cancers is still disputable, and has not yet won the FDA approval. NCI - National Cancer Institute recently did some research with 42 patients drinking about 4 cups of gree tea, daily for four months. However, only one patient experienced a short-lived improvement, and nearly 70 percent of the group experienced unpleasant side effects such as nausea and diarrhea. The study concluded drinking green tea has limited antitumor benefit for prostate cancer patients.

My Conclusion: That there are several health benefits packed in these tiny green leaves is irrefutable. Some have already been publicized, but there are plenty that are still to find fame. The ongoing research suggests that in the coming years, we will surely see this player make its impact in the health industry. Meanwhile, besides the fact that it isn't a real tasty drink, I see no harmful effects in drinking green tea, and I am going to continue drinking it. Hope this article helps you in making a right choice too!

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