There is a lot of information in the media about green tea and the protection it gives you against cancer. Green tea is high in antioxidants, which could combat cancer by neutralizing free radicals, which are chemical by-products known to damage DNA. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that can damage the body’s cells when they are in an unstable form. The molecules become unstable by losing an electron. They stabilize by taking an electron from another molecule. By doing this they can destroy a cell or cause it to mutate. The destruction or mutation of cells can cause numerous diseases such as cataracts, various cancers and heart problems. Antioxidants neutralize the affect of the free radical by giving up an electron.
Green tea is among the most popular health foods in the US. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) found in green tea is a substance with more antioxidant activity than vitamins C, E and other nutrients. The evidence that green tea can reduce the risk of cancer is not completely supported. Large-scale clinical trials are needed before drinking green tea can be considered effective in reducing your cancer risk. It’s been noted drinking green tea may even offer other health benefits that include reduced risk of stroke and periodontal disease. Here again we need more studies to prove the theory. If you’re considering drinking green tea regularly, you should consult your healthcare provider first. Some medical conditions and medications my prohibit you from consuming green tea. Both green and Black tea comes from the leaves of the same tree. These leaves contain catechin. Green tea is rich in catechin. Green tea has more than four times as much EGCG as Black tea.
If you are consuming green tea you may not be getting what you’re paying for. Some bottled green teas and even green tea supplements contain only a trace amount of EGCG. The amount of EGCG in most products can vary as much as 240%. There are no state or federal regulations for green tea. There have been green tea studies but they have not examined the various brands or the source. The FDA doesn’t test tea or tea-based supplements. Without testing it is impossible to know how much EGCG is in a product. Even when the information is included on the label it may not be accurate. Labels may or may not include the amount of EGCG per serving. You would get more EGCG if you drink more green tea. And you could make stronger tea to get more EGCG. Not knowing how much EGCG is in a product is not good because of our limited knowledge about green tea and how our bodies react to large doses. There are no recommended levels for EGCG. Green tea also contains caffeine. The caffeine ranges from 20mg per cup to as much as 85mg. Green tea does come in a decaffeinated form. Some reports suggest there is less EGCG in the decaffeinated green tea.
When brewing green tea steep your tea for three to five minutes. If you steep the tea for a longer period of time it won’t extract more EGCG and may make the tea more bitter tasting.
Green tea also comes bottled. Bottled green tea is expensive, most often contain little EGCG and contains a lot of sweeteners. Almost none of the bottled green tea companies list the amount of EGCG. When it was labeled and tested there was as little as 68% of the listed EGCG.
Green tea supplements could be an effective way to get EGCG. Most supplements list the amount of EGCG on the label. Even in the supplemental form you may not get what you are paying for.
Lead can also be a problem when consuming green tea. In a number test on green tea leaves small amounts of lead was found. They found 2mcg to 5mcg per serving. Exposure to lead can lead to brain, nerve sand kidney damage. Lead can be more damaging to children. Children should not be exposed to more than 6mcg of lead per day. Adults can handle 25mcg to 70mcg per day. It’s best to avoid any unnecessary lead exposure. Lead can accumulate in our bodies. All plants can absorb lead from the environment. The leaves of most plants used for teas will absorb lead more readily than other plants. You should never swallow the leaves of most teas because of the possible lead exposure.
Other compounds found in green tea can have negative health effects. Tannins, the element fluorine and flavonoids can affect our health. The combination of these and other chemicals may cause liver damage in some people if you drink a lot of tea. Tannins in green tea reduces your body’s ability the absorb folic acid, a B vitamin that is particularly important during fetal development. Green tea will interact with several medications. Stimulants or anticoagulants are just a few medications that should not be taken with green tea.
Most of us brew our tea with fluoridated drinking water. We get even more fluorine brewing green tea with fluoridated drinking water. Too much fluorine can lead to developmental delays, bone disease, dental fluorosis, and other negative effects.
Flavonoids are great antioxidants. You also have to note that flavonoids also bind nonheme iron. Drinking too much green tea will limit your body’s ability to absorb essential iron. This will lead to anemia or a bleeding disorder.
If I had to tell someone what to do to prevent cancer, I would say “to reduce your risk, have a balanced diet, exercise, don’t smoke or live in a smoke environment, reduce your exposure to cancer causing chemicals and get regular check-ups”.
Before starting your fitness program, consult your physician.