The growing array of benefits of green tea is something to celebrate.
If you haven't already traded in your morning cup of joe for a mug of green tea, consider it now. A growing mound of evidence indicates that specific antioxidants found most abundantly in green tea help defend the body against heart disease, cancer, obesity, memory loss, and general cognitive decline with age. Produced from fresh leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, grown widely in China and India, green tea differs from black tea only in the minimal degree of natural fermentation the leaves are allowed to undergo after they are harvested. That process, however, dictates the composition of powerful antioxidants known as catechins.
Rebecca Searles is a New York-based journalist focused on digital media innovation and the future of storytelling. Currently, she is the Editorial Product Manager at Sonr, a lab for building tools for journalists. She also runs a community and visibility platform for women futurists. She has worked for science and tech startups in NY and San Francisco, completed a research fellowship on transhumanism at Duke University, and spent over 2 years helping run social media & community at The Huffington Post, where she founded the HuffPost Girls in STEM Mentorship Program.
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Epigallocatechin gallate, one of the most potent antioxidants ever discovered, occurs only in tea and most abundantly in green tea. It's even undergoing tests as an additive to plastic packaging to maintain the freshness of perishable foods. Ongoing research around the world is aimed at pinpointing the healthbenefits of green tea.
Scientists have long known that compounds in freshly brewed green tea protect the brain from dementia, but they had no idea whether those compounds are still active and available following processing by the gut. To their surprise, researchers at Newcastle University found that digestion actually renders green tea more protective than tea still in the cup, preventing accumulated toxins from destroying brain cells. Digestion, they report, also boosts the ability of green tea compounds to slow tumor growth.
The more green tea you drink, the more you protect yourself against coronary artery disease. After analyzing data from 18 studies, researchers in Nanjing, China, calculated that each cup of green tea you drink lowers your risk of heart disease by 10 percent. Black tea offers no such protection. Green tea catechins provide "a wide spectrum of beneficial effects," inhibiting oxidation, vascular inflammation, and formation of arterial plaque and clots, and favorably affecting plasma lipid levels and vascular reactivity.
Green tea gets some of its cardioprotectiveness from its caffeine content, say Japanese scientists, who tracked over 76,000 healthy individuals aged 40 to 79 for an average of 13 years. They recorded intake of coffee and green, black, and oolong teas and deaths from stroke and heart disease. The more caffeine consumed, the lower the risk of death from stroke and heart disease—except among black tea drinkers. Caffeine was linked to a 38 percent decrease in cardiovascular mortality in men, 22 percent in women.
The epigallocatechin gallate content of green tea may help control autoimmune disease and generally improve immune function. Oregon State University researchers report that besides its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects, the antioxidant powerfully increases the number of the body's regulatory T cells, which keep immune components that attack foreign invaders from turning against the body itself—the cause of autoimmune conditions like celiac disease and juvenile diabetes.
Want great-looking skin? Sip green tea. It protects against sun damage from ultraviolet radiation, a recent double-blind study finds. For 12 weeks, 60 women consumed either a control beverage or one enriched with green tea polyphenols. All were then exposed to UV light. Those who drank the green tea goodies experienced 25 percent less sunburn and their skin had more elasticity, better water balance, and less roughness and scaling. Blood flow and oxygen delivery also increased, boosting the skin's natural glow.