With increasing frequency, consumers are seeking natural remedies or preventatives for common ailments. Surprisingly, many of these remedies are found in popular food items. Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is one such substance that is found in green tea. Studies are suggesting that this particular variety of tea may have many health benefits.
These studies, however, are inconclusive and green tea should not be substituted for your current treatment without consulting your doctor.
How Green Tea is Cultivated
Green and black tea varieties are harvested from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub historically cultivated in China. During the oxidation process used to make black tea, many of the beneficial polyphenals are converted to different compounds. Green tea, which doesn't go through the oxidation process, maintains high levels of these acclaimed anti-oxidants which are said to have cancer fighting properties. Only about 20 percent of the world's tea production is green tea.
Climate, season, horticultural practices, and the age of the leaves can all influence the chemical composition of the green tea. Flavonoids, the major polyphenols found in green tea, include catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallate, and proanthocyanidins. The most significant of these is epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. Of the 8 to 12 percent of polyphenols found in a typical glass, only a small portion will be EGCG. Other compounds found in green tea include caffeine, an amino acid known as theanine, lignan, organic acids, protein and chlorophyll.
Green Tea and Heart Disease
Some studies have suggested that the antioxidant properties of green tea may help prevent atherosclerosis, particularly coronary artery disease, by reducing the levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol. Research has also been conducted on the effect of tea polyphenols on platelets. This research shows a reduction in platelets, the material that forms blood clots, is gained from tea polyphenols. Other studies have indicated that these polyphenols lower cholesterol and raise HDL, or good cholesterol.
Green Tea and Cancer
The low cancer rates in countries, such as Japan, in which large quantities of green tea are consumed, seem to indicate a correlation between green tea and cancer prevention. While no studies have directly linked green tea polyphenols to cancer prevention, animal and clinical studies are beginning to suggest just such a role. EGCG has been purported to suppress tumor promotion. Studies seem to indicate positive relationships between green tea consumption and the following cancers: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colo-rectal cancer, lung cancer pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer and stomach cancer.
Other Health Benefits
Research suggests that EGCG may reactivate dead skin cells, promoting better skin health. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties have been used to treat joint problems by decreasing production of an inflammatory prostaglandin. Consumption of green tea may even reduce the chances of inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, and liver disease. Studies even show that the metabolism rise that accompanies EGCG use to help in weight loss and control. EGCG has been shown to contain twice the antioxidant capabilities of resveratrol, the anti-oxidant present in red wine.
Sources of EGCG
Flavonoids are found in every brand of all-natural green tea. One company, Lipton, offers green tea in a variety of flavors. The amount of flavonoids per serving varies by flavor from 70 mg for honey and decaf honey lemon to 150 mg for 100 percent natural. Other flavor choices include citrus, cranberry pomegranate, lemon ginseng, mixed berry and mint. Lipton tea makes no claims regarding the benefits aside from the obvious hydration benefits.