If you’re a coffee lover, you might want to reconsider your drink of choice. Coffee may give you the energy boost you crave, but if you want to live longer, maintain healthy weight, and enjoy a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, you might consider switching over to green tea.
Green tea has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years to promote longevity, improve mental functions, and prevent disease. But it is only within the past twenty years or so that green tea has become a popular healing tonic in the West. As a result of both historical accounts and current research, tea has gone from a simple beverage to a functional food with ample evidence of its health promoting properties.
Green tea proven to reduce risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease
Numerous population-based studies have demonstrated that green tea consumption is associated with a significantly lower risk for many types of cancer. In addition to the population-based evidence, green tea and green-tea extracts have been shown to exert many anti-cancer effects in experimental studies.
Two newly published reviews on the health properties of tea and its active constituents, tea polyphenols, examined the many mechanisms of tea’s healthful effects on cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- The first study found that tea:
- produces potent antioxidant effects
- supports induction of detoxification enzymes
- helps regulate abnormal cell growth and cancer
- prevents LDL cholesterol oxidation
- improves the function and growth of beneficial intestine bacteria
In addition, the authors found that many of the so-called “western nutritionally-linked cancers,” caused by poor diet, and “lifestyle-related cancers,” caused mainly by tobacco use, can be prevented by tea consumption. These cancers include prostate, stomach, pancreas, breast, lung, and colon. The authors conclude that, “The regular use of tea, a widely available, tasty, inexpensive beverage, has displayed valuable preventive properties in chronic human diseases.” Because optimal effects of tea consumption require up to 10 cups of tea daily, and because green tea has the highest quantity of the main active tea ingredients, the availability of standardized green tea extracts in easy-to-use capsule form has made it convenient for anybody to obtain the amazing benefits of tea.1
- A second large study in Japan examined the effects of green tea on cancer and cardiovascular disease. This study looked at the effects of drinking less than 3 cups a day versus the effects of drinking more than 10 cups of green tea daily. The finding was that drinking large amounts of green tea resulted in an almost 50% reduction in cancer incidence and a significant delay in the development of those cancers that did occur.
In the case of cardiovascular disease, a 30% reduction was found to result from large intakes of green tea. Not surprisingly, these researchers also found that green tea consumption resulted in an extension of lifespan among those people who drank the largest amounts. While drinking more than 10 cups a day of tea is difficult for most people, the availability of highly concentrated green tea extracts in capsule form has made it possible for anyone to easily obtain the benefits of drinking large amounts of green tea. 2
Lose weight . . . live longer
One recent study confirms that tea catechins—potent antioxidants—are effective in suppressing increases of glucose and insulin concentrations in the blood. Since blood sugar tends to increase with age, this effect is an extremely important anti-aging benefit.3 Another study indicates that one of the specific catechins, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), lowers appetite, body weight, blood sugar, and insulin levels. 4
Plus, tea polyphenols inhibit the activity of amylase, a starch-digesting enzyme found in saliva and in the intestines. Starch is broken down more slowly, and the rise in serum glucose is minimized, so that you don’t crave sweets and other snack foods after eating a meal. 5 Since insulin is our most fattening hormone and, with cortisol, our most pro-aging hormone, if you take green tea in the form of a nutritional supplement, you gain a wide range of benefits that accompany calorie and insulin control.
The Far East paradox
Researchers have wondered about the Far East medical paradox for many years. If cigarette smoking is so prevalent in China and Japan, why is heart disease so rare? Also, why do the Japanese people remain so thin, when obesity has become an epidemic in the United States?
We now know, thanks to scientific studies, that antioxidants in green tea help reduce the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, a process that can lead to clogged arteries and cardiovascular disease. 1 6
And to answer the second question, the “starch blocking” effect of green tea (3 4 5) may be part of the reason Japanese people living in Japan can eat so much rice but remain thin. They have a tradition of drinking green tea with every meal!
So, if you want to keep your weight under control, decrease your risk of getting cancer and developing cardiovascular disease, and maintain healthy blood glucose levels, drink lots of green tea … or take a good nutritional supplement that contains green tea extract.
- Weisburger JH, Chung FL. “Mechanisms of chronic disease causation by nutritional factors and tobacco products and their prevention by tea polyphenols.” Food Chem Toxicol 2002 Aug;40(8):1145-54.
- Nakachi K, Matsuyama S, Miyake S, Suganuma M, Imai K. “Preventive effects of drinking green tea on cancer and cardiovascular disease: epidemiological evidence for multiple targeting prevention.” Biofactors 2000;13(1-4):49-54.
- Horigome, T., Kumar, R and Okamoto, K.: Brit J. Nutr., 60,275-285 (1988).
- Kao YH, Hiipakka RA, Liao S. “Modulation of endocrine systems and food intake by green tea epigallocatechin gallate.” Endocrinology 2000 Mar;141(3):980-7.
- Kreydiyyeh SI et al. “Tea extract inhibits intestinal absorption of glucose and sodium in rats.” Comp Biochem Physiol C Pharmacol Toxico Endocrino 1994;108:359-65.
- Luo, M., et al. “Inhibition of LDL oxidation by green tea extract.” The Lancet 199, 349:360-361.