Nutrition Articles

The Truth About Green Tea

A Health Powerhouse or Mostly Hype?

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Components of Tea: Catechins and Caffeine
Flavonoids are dietary compounds found in tea and other foods such as wine, cocoa, fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids determine the color and taste of food and may be involved in healthy body functions. The average U.S. adult consumes 189.7 milligrams of flavonoids each day, most of which (157 mg to be exact) come from tea. While there is currently no recommendation for flavonoid consumption, experts are in the initial stages of discussion regarding recommendations for these dietary components. Tea contains approximately 100-300 milligrams of flavonoids per serving, depending on the type of tea. The main type of flavonoids found in tea are catechins. Because the green tea variety is less processed, it contains more catechins than black tea does. Therefore green tea and green tea extracts have received the most research regarding possible health benefits and will be the focus of this particular article. Research has primarily investigated the health benefits of catechins such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), and epicatechin (EC).

Green tea also contains 2% to 4% caffeine or about 10-80 milligrams per cup. (For reference, a cup of regular coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine, while 1 oz. of dark chocolate contains 23 mg.) Caffeine has also been the topic of many research studies regarding the health benefits of green tea.

Health Benefits of Green Tea: What the Research Really Shows

The research to date indicates that green tea is likely effective for:
  • Improving mental alertness. Because of the caffeine content, green tea and other caffeinated beverages can help maintain alertness and cognitive ability when used throughout the day.
     
  • Treating genital warts. An FDA prescription ointment that uses green tea extract heals genital and perianal warts in 24-60% of patients.
Research to date shows that green tea might be effective for:
  • Improving cholesterol levels. Green tea may help reduce elevated levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides while increasing HDL ("healthy") cholesterol in the blood. However, more clinical studies are needed in this area.
     
  • Preventing low blood pressure upon standing and after eating (in the elderly population). This is likely due to the caffeine content of green tea.
     
  • Reducing the risk or preventing the onset of Parkinson's disease.This is also attributed to the caffeine content.
     
  • Preventing cancers of the bladder, esophagus, ovaries and pancreas. Most of these studies have been conducted on animals, but a few involved testing green tea extracts on people. More research is needed.
Currently, there is not enough evidence to say that green tea has the following health benefits:
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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