Health Benefits of Green Tea: Are the Crazy Claims True?
We in the West have only become aware of Green Tea relatively recently. Recent, that is, compared to the 4000 years or so that Asian cultures have been enjoying green tea. So, recently, green tea has been touted as a miracle cure for nearly every modern ailment. Green tea has been credited with aiding in cancer prevention, lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering blood pressure, and even helping to achieve that holy grail: weight loss. How can all these crazy claims for the health benefits of green tea possibly be true? Are they true? Let’s take a more detailed look at the main health benefits of green tea, and examine why Green Tea is BIG in health and fitness circles.
The dreaded Big-C is the result of deranged integrity in our DNA: damage to our DNA, improper repair mechanisms, improper duplication. This can cause uncontrolled cell growth, leading to cancers. We still don’t know exactly what causes cancers or how to prevent them. However, current research suggests that diet plays a big role in preventing cancer. Green tea contains a number of cancer-fighting agents. All of the polyphenols are effective cancer killing nutrients. In addition, the other nutrients present in warm green tea (vitamins A, C, and E, and various minerals) provide added cancer fighting punch.
Perhaps the most important benefit of drinking green tea is the level of antioxidants that it contains. Antioxidants help protect your body’s cells (and DNA) from the nasty free radicals (potentially dangerous by-products that are released into our body’s cells during use of oxygen). Free radicals have been linked to the aging process, as well as a variety of chronic diseases. There is even a “free radical theory of aging.” Green tea is one of the richest food sources of antioxidants available. Green tea contains high levels of more than ten different antioxidants, including the polyphenols epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epicatechin gallate, gallocatechol, vitamins A, C, and E, and the minerals manganese, selenium and zinc.
For a natural source of antioxidants, Tim Ferris talks about EatGreenTea:
Those two benefits are perhaps the most important (in my opinion), but Green tea is not popular because it helps prevent cancer or provides powerful antioxidants. The basis for its recent surge in popularity is its ability to increase basal metabolic rate (rate that you burn calories and fat). That is, green tea is popular because green tea helps burn fat.
Green tea helps you lose weight!
The explanation is that the phenols in green tea increase fat oxidation and thermogenesis, which results in your burning more calories.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Drinking green tea can help reduce your risk of the #1 killer in the US. Heart disease kills more than half a million (!!) people every year in the US. The good news is that the polyphenols in green tea will help lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Green tea can also help protect against diabetes. Diabetes develops when your body becomes unable to regulate blood glucose levels normally. The result is that high glucose levels can damage cells, blood vessels, and vital organs. The nutrients in green tea help maintain blood glucose levels and minimize risk of developing diabetes. The 3 main polyphenols (epicatechin, epigallocatechin gallate, and thearubigins) help normalize and balance glucose metabolism in several complex ways (the insulin / glucose balance is pretty complicated). Bottom line? Good.
Lower Blood Pressure
Despite the fact that green tea does contain some caffeine (about one-fourth the caffeine of coffee), green tea reduces blood pressure. Whereas that seems to be a contradiction – after all, caffeine is known to raise blood pressure – there are other agents present in green tea that compensate, and result in lower blood pressure. Untreated blood pressure can seriously damage blood vessels and vital organs. The polyphenols present in green tea can protect against this damage and help maintain your blood pressure in the normal range.
Improved Brain Function
In addition to all of those benefits for your physical health, green tea has been shown to boost your noggin, too: some good medical studies have found that drinking green tea can protect against dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinsonism. The two main polyphenols that are associated with these benefits (and there are surely others that we don’t know about yet) are catechin and theaflavin. Bottom line? Green tea is good ‘brain food.’
Some of the polyphenols present in green tea are powerful anti-inflammatories and natural antihistamines.
Histamine is the inflammatory biochemical that is released in response to allergens. It is the histamine that is mostly responsible for your watery, itchy eyes and nose during hayfever season.
Drinking green tea can help prevent your common allergic symptoms of coughing, itching, swelling, and sneezing. Note that nearly all teas have some of these benefits. However, the green teas are the most powerful in these health benefits because of the way that the tea leaves are handled after harvest. The other teas are no longer green because of some level of oxidation or fermentation. Some of the polyphenols may be lost during that process. More of the nutrients and active agents remain in green tea; green has the highest levels of these beneficial phytonutrients.
In summary, when we investigate further, it seems that the huge recent interest in green tea as a health drink is justified.
The unique blend of nutrients in green tea means that it provides health benefits that are unmatched by almost any other food or drink. That does not mean that green tea is a magic bullet, however.
Just because you green tea does not mean that you can avoid eating a healthy diet or exercising. It does mean that you should consider drinking green tea as an addition to your healthy lifestyle. It can massively boost your health. And, we have not even begun to talk about the wonderful flavors of the many tea varieties.
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