Green tea, made from the unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, has been widely studied for its potential health benefits. Its positive effects are mostly due to a high content of polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, a powerful antioxidant. The findings of numerous studies suggest green tea may have particular benefits for menopausal women’s health concerns.
Although the bones of both men and women weaken with age, menopausal women over 50 are at the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become porous and subject to fracture. A review published in “Nutrition Research” in 2009 looked at human, animal and test-tube studies of green tea and concluded that the compounds in green tea may improve bone density and reduce the activity of osteoclasts, cells often responsible for bone loss.
In menopause, earlier lifestyle choices like poor diet and smoking may catch up with women, increasing risk factors associated with heart disease. Part of the increased risk may also have to do with menopausal women’s lower estrogen levels. A large cohort study in Japan followed more than 40,000 adults aged 40 to 79 for 11 years. The researchers found that people who drank the most green tea – up to five cups daily – had the lowest mortality rate overall and from cardiovascular disease in particular. The positive results were especially notable with women. The findings were published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association” in 2006.
A long-term study published in the online medical journal “BMJ Open” in 2013 found that middle-aged women face stressors such as work, divorce and widowhood that may lead to a higher risk of dementia. In Japan, a study of people over 70 found that a higher consumption of green tea – more than two cups a day – resulted in less cognitive decline. The researchers published their findings in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2006.
Cancer risk for everyone increases with age, but women who don’t enter menopause until after age 55 are at heightened risk for estrogen-related cancers such as breast and endometrial cancer, according to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. In 2007, a study on women, published in the journal “Carcinogenesis,” concluded that regularly drinking green tea has a protective effect against breast cancer. A review published in “American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology” in 2009 found some evidence that green tea drinking may also protect against endometrial cancer, but warned that more research is needed to establish a firm connection.
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Beneficial Effects of Green Tea – A Review
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Green Tea
- Cleveland Clinic: Menopause and Osteoporosis
- Nutrition Research: Green Tea and Bone Metabolism
- American Journal of Pathology: Osteoclasts: What Do They Do and How Do They Do It?
- American Heart Association: Menopause and Heart Disease
- JAMA: Green Tea Consumption and Mortality Due to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Causes in Japan
- BMJ Open: Common Psychosocial Stressors in Middle-aged Women Related to Longstanding Distress and Increased Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Green Tea Consumption and Cognitive Function
- M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: Menopause and Cancer Risks