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The Health Benefits of Green Tea: What You Need to Know

The Health Benefits of Green Tea: What You Need to Know

From: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health: Health Information -- Green Tea
Green tea is a popular beverage that comes from the plant Camellia sinensis, which is native to East Asia. It has been used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan for thousands of years, with its benefits ranging from cognitive function enhancement to cancer prevention.

The preparation of green tea involves steaming, pan-frying, and drying the leaves of the plant. It is promoted for improving mental alertness, relieving digestive symptoms and headaches, and promoting weight loss. Green tea contains caffeine, which has been shown to prevent a decline in alertness when consumed throughout the day. However, a study involving only the main component of green tea, EGCG, found no improvement in mental capabilities in adults.

In 2006, the FDA approved a specific green tea extract ointment as a prescription drug for treating genital warts. The ointment, called sinecatechins (brand name Veregen), includes extracted components of green tea leaves. However, there is little evidence to support the use of green tea for most other purposes.

Studies on green tea and its components, including EGCG, have investigated their possible protective effects against heart disease and cancer. Some studies suggest that both green and black tea might have beneficial effects on some heart disease risk factors, including blood pressure and cholesterol. However, no definite conclusions have been reached due to limitations in the research data and differences in study populations.

Studies of green tea and cancer in people have had inconsistent results, and the National Cancer Institute does not recommend for or against using green tea to reduce the risk of any type of cancer. Recent research has also shown that green tea extracts haven’t been shown to produce meaningful weight loss in adults who are overweight or obese, nor have they been shown to help people maintain a weight loss. The NCCIH is funding research on new forms of green tea extracts for preventing symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and for lowering cholesterol.

Green tea, when consumed as a beverage, is considered safe when used in amounts up to 8 cups per day. However, liver problems have been reported in a number of people who took green tea products, primarily in pill form. People with liver disease should consult a healthcare provider before taking products with green tea extract, and those taking green tea extracts, especially those with liver disease, should discontinue use and consult a healthcare provider if they develop symptoms of liver trouble. Green tea at high doses has been shown to reduce blood levels and therefore the effectiveness of the drug nadolol, a beta-blocker used for high blood pressure and heart problems.

While green tea is believed to be safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding when consumed in amounts up to 6 cups per day (no more than about 300 mg of caffeine), drinking more than this amount during pregnancy may be unsafe and may increase the risk of negative effects. Caffeine passes into breast milk and can affect a breastfeeding infant.

Green tea is an ingredient in many over-the-counter weight loss products, some of which have been identified as the likely cause of rare cases of liver injury. Therefore, it is essential to talk with a healthcare provider about any complementary health approaches used to take charge of personal health. Together, shared and well-informed decisions can be made.

In addition to its potential health benefits, green tea has other properties that make it appealing to consumers. For example, it is a natural source of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. These compounds help to maintain healthy skin, reduce inflammation, and improve cardiovascular health. Green tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation and can offset the stimulating effects of caffeine.

Despite the numerous benefits that green tea may offer, it is important to recognize that individual results may vary. Some people may experience negative side effects, such as anxiety or jitteriness, when consuming large amounts of caffeine. Furthermore, the efficacy of green tea for certain health conditions is still being studied, and definitive conclusions have not yet been reached.

In summary, green tea is a popular beverage that has been used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan for thousands of years. While it is promoted for improving mental alertness, relieving digestive symptoms, and promoting weight loss, its effectiveness for these purposes has not been definitively established. Studies on green tea and its components, including EGCG, have yielded inconsistent results regarding their potential to prevent heart disease and cancer. Green tea is generally considered safe when consumed in moderate amounts, but people with liver disease should exercise caution when taking green tea extracts. As with any complementary health approach, it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider before using green tea products to make shared and well-informed decisions.

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