High levels of cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Optimal total cholesterol levels should be lower than 200 mg/dL, and bad cholesterol levels should not exceed 100 mg/dL, according to the American Heart Association. Statins and other prescription medications help lower cholesterol. Natural remedies can also be effective, including eating healthy meals, exercising, losing weight, and natural supplements such as green tea.
Like other tea, green tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. However, it’s made from the unfermented leaves and contains the highest concentration of antioxidants known as polyphenols, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Antioxidants are esteemed for their ability to fight free radicals, which damage cells and tissue and interfere with DNA.
Effects on Cholesterol
Green tea helps to lower LDL cholesterol levels and boost high-density lipoprotein. Referred to as HDL for short, or “good” cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein sweeps bad cholesterol away from the arteries, preventing atherosclerosis. The clogged arteries that result from atherosclerosis can lead to heart attack or stroke.
The first human study to show that green tea reduced LDL cholesterol was conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2003. During a 12-week trial, study participants took 375 mg capsules containing an extract of green tea. The levels of polyphenols in the capsules were equivalent to the amount found in 35 cups of green tea. Supplementation with the green tea resulted in a 16 percent reduction in cholesterol -- an effectiveness that surprised the researchers.
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends drinking two to three cups of green tea per day. This amount contains about 240 to 320 mg of polyphenols. If you take a green tea supplement, such as a liquid extract or pill, try to stay within these recommended intakes for polyphenols.
Green tea is generally well-tolerated. However, you should not take it if you have a heart problem, kidney disorder, stomach ulcer or psychological disorder, warns the University of Maryland Medical Center. They also point out that taking high doses of green tea over a long period may cause symptoms such as dizziness, heart palpitations, insomnia and irritability. Green tea may also interact with some drugs, so consult your doctor if you are taking any medications.
- American Heart Association: What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean
- American Heart Association: Drug Therapy for Cholesterol
- American Heart Association: Lifestyle Changes and Cholesterol
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Green Tea
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center: Drink More Tea To Lower Cholesterol: VUMC Study