Green Tea & Health: New Research

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Photo courtesy of Penn State University

Photo courtesy of Penn State University

As the use of green tea supplements gained ground as supportive of weight loss, concerns were raised that high consumption of green tea in this form could contribute to liver toxicity. New research from Penn State may give clues about how to establish some protection against this damage.

Researchers in Penn State’s Agricultural Sciences department have taken a look at what can be done to allow the body to accept the benefits of the ingestion of the green tea supplements, without risking serious problems with the liver. These green tea supplements largely rely on their polyphenol component, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), for their health effects. The researchers developed a research study involving mice.

Two groups of mice were established for the study. One group was given a low dose of EGCG daily for two weeks while the other mice were given nothing new in their diet. After two weeks, all of the mice were given the an EGCG dosage that would be equivalent to that found in a typical supplement, for three days. When liver function was tested, the mice that had begun with low doses first had 75% lower incidence of liver toxicity.

Penn State researcher Josh Lambert

Penn State researcher Josh Lambert

Penn State associate professor of food science, Josh Lambert, says that this study suggests that people who already consume green tea regularly may have some liver protection when using supplements. In the end, he recommends that drinking green tea may be a better long-term option than supplements, offering the health benefits without the potential risk of the supplements.

This was not the only green tea research news from Lambert and his team at Penn State in the last two weeks. Lambert, along with research technician Jong-Yung Park and doctoral candidate Ling Tao, has been exploring past studies that suggest that green tea can kill oral cancer cells while leaving the normal cells unharmed. While this positive effect of EGCG has been observed, the mechanism has not been understood. The new study found that EGCG impacts the mitochondria of the cancerous cells, causing a ripple effect where the damage to the mitochondria continues to cause more harm, while also slowing protective anti-oxidant genes, until the cell dies off. The EGCG does not have this same effect on normal cells. Conversely, it actually offers those cells greater protection.

SOURCE: Penn State University