Green tea is dubbed as one of the healthiest drinks in the world.
The consumption of green tea worldwide keeps growing, and the whole market is expanding each year.
Green tea is an integral part of the $2.58 billion specialty tea category and represents 15% of the United States’ total tea consumption. Of course, this number is a lot higher in Asia.
The ever-growing popularity and outstanding health potential aren’t baseless, though.
Numerous studies have confirmed that green tea can support our health in many ways, and it’s all down to green tea catechins. What are they, and why are these catechins so important? You’ll learn in this post.
What is green tea?
Green tea is a tea made from Camellia sinensis leaves and buds. Camellia sinensis is a species of evergreen shrubs or small trees in the flowering family called Theaceae. It is also known as a tea plant, and besides green tea, its leaves and buds are used to prepare other teas. White tea, black tea, oolong, and yellow tea all come from the same plant. The only different thing is the production process.
Green tea comes from unoxidized leaves of the tea plant. In other words, the leaves haven’t undergone the same withering and oxidation process that’s required for black and oolong tea.
That’s why green tea is one of the less processed types of tea. This also explains why it has more antioxidants and catechins than other teas. But we will focus on catechins later.
This tea is native to China. However, its production has spread to other nations in East Asia. The origins of green tea trace back to 2737 BC. According to a legend, the Chinese emperor Shennong mistakenly drank water with a dead tea leaf boiled in it. He liked the flavor.
First, only nobles in Chinese society could drink green tea. It was too expensive for commoners. In the 14th-century green tea became more accessible to the general public.
As countries traded with one another, green tea reached Europe and later the United States and other parts of the world.
Benefits of green tea
For centuries green tea has been a significant part of traditional Chinese medicine. You see, people in China didn’t just drink the tea because of its refreshing flavor. They also loved it for its health potential. Indeed, green tea can improve your health. It can lower the risk of various health problems or aid their management.
The benefits of green tea are down to catechins, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). You will learn more about these active compounds further in this post.
The health benefits of green tea aren’t silly marketing claims. A growing body of evidence confirms many of them. Further research will also help highlight other potential mechanisms of action. Below, you can see some of the essential health benefits of green tea.
1) Better heart health
Millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide have heart disease. A healthy lifestyle is crucial for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. A healthy diet and regular exercise can combat the biggest risk factor of heart disease – obesity.
Green tea polyphenol can improve some of the most significant risk factors of cardiovascular disease. Besides weight loss (discussed below), green tea also lowers LDL or bad cholesterol. It reduces the plasma concentration of total cholesterol too.
This tea increases the antioxidant capacity of the blood. This provides LDL particles protection from oxidation. Therefore, Japenese green tea tackles a major pathway that leads to metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
This tea also promotes blood flow. It keeps blood vessels healthy. That’s why green tea can support healthy blood pressure.
2) Lower stroke risk
Numbers show that each year about 795,000 people suffer a stroke in the U.S. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Even though it’s a severe cardiovascular event, stroke is preventable.
Regular green tea consumption reduces the risk of stroke, evidence shows. The protective effect of green tea is due to antioxidants and other biological contents of this beverage. Also, green tea contains vitamin C. This vitamin has antioxidant effects too.
3) Type 2 diabetes prevention
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes blood sugar. The body needs blood sugar for energy. In people with this condition, the body resists insulin. More precisely, you develop insulin resistance.
Blood glucose needs insulin to enter cells. Otherwise, it can’t. That’s why levels of blood sugar become too high.
The CDC reports that 34 million Americans have type 2 diabetes. In other words, one in 10 Americans has this condition.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Many of us don’t think about it at all. Prevention of diabetes requires a healthy lifestyle. Just like its management!
The good news is that green tea reduces blood sugar levels and may improve insulin sensitivity. Tea consumption can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but more research is necessary.
Mechanisms of action need further elucidating. It could be due to antioxidant activity. Also, green tea promotes weight loss. Excess weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
4) A healthier brain
Probably one of the most important health benefits of green tea is that it can keep you alert. Besides alertness and improved concentration, green tea can support brain function. In addition to catechins, green tea contains a small amount of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and provides clarity and alertness you need.
Additionally, caffeine blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. As a result, it improves neurons’ firing and increases the concentration of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine.
Caffeine can also improve mood, memory, reaction time, and other aspects of brain function. Green tea supports brain function in other ways too. For example, it contains an amino acid called l-theanine. This amino acid can cross the blood-brain barrier. L-theanine can help lower anxiety levels and keep your brain healthy.
Drinking green tea can improve your focus, memory, alertness, and attention. This tea can protect your brain as you age too. Catechins from green tea can lower the risk of dementia, especially its most common type – Alzheimer’s disease. Green tea can decrease the risk of Parkinson’s disease too.
5) Fat burning and weight loss
Green tea is a popular name in the weight loss industry. Hundreds of weight loss products and nutritional supplements for weight loss contain green tea. If you’ve looked for weight loss tips, you probably came across green tea as well. It’s easy to think that green tea for weight loss is a fad. But scientific evidence supports it.
Green tea is in the formula of many fat burning supplements because it can help you burn fat and speed up metabolism. A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects who used green tea extract burned 4% more calories. A different study from the same journal discovered that green tea increased fat oxidation by 17% in subjects compared to placebo.
Caffeine from green tea can also support fat-burning properties. Also, green tea can increase your athletic performance. That way, you can do a better job in the gym.
Green tea promotes weight loss because it speeds up metabolism. You burn fat faster, even in the abdominal area. You can expect decreases in body fat percentage, body weight, and waist circumference. In other words, green tea is a safe and natural ally against overweight and obesity.
Green tea beverages that contain catechins with galloyl moiety can also support body fat reduction.
6) Cancer prevention
Unfortunately, cancer is a common occurrence worldwide. The severe disease develops due to the abnormal growth of cancerous cells. Many cancers are preventable. The exact cause of cancer is largely unknown. Various risk factors exist, but it’s unclear what propels the growth of abnormal cells.
Many cases of cancer occur due to oxidative stress. You see, oxidative damage causes chronic inflammation. Subsequently, inflammation increases the risk of many health problems, including cancers. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative damage. Green tea is abundant in antioxidants.
Drinking green tea can reduce the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer. It could also lower the risk of other cancers such as those affecting ovaries, bladder, throat, lungs, stomach, and skin.
TIP: avoid adding milk to your tea. Milk reduces the antioxidant potential of some beverages. Drinking tea without milk could give you more powerful effects.
Active compounds in green tea have the potential to kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing. Further studies are necessary to uncover all the mechanisms of action.
You’re probably wondering how much green tea to drink to lower cancer risk. The amount varies from one study to another. Anything between two and 10 cups a day could be helpful. Quality of tea matters too.
7) Tackles bad breath
Bad breath is an embarrassing problem. Many people feel insecure about halitosis (bad breath). They avoid socializing. Even when they hang out with someone, they try to talk less as possible.
Causes of bad breath include:
- Conditions affecting mouth, nose, and throat
- Dry mouth
- Infections in the mouth
- Poor dental hygiene
Don’t worry; there is a lot you can do to solve this problem. Drinking green tea is a great solution. You’re correct; it’s because of tea catechin. These active compounds have beneficial effects on dental health.
Catechins can suppress the growth of bacteria in the mouth. That way, they lower the risk of infections. As seen above, infections can contribute to bad breath.
8) Skin health
Skin is the largest organ of the body. Various problems can affect it. These problems affect a person’s quality of life. Confidence also suffers. People believe that everyone’s looking at their skin problem.
Inflammatory skin diseases can be particularly frustrating. They are stubborn and don’t go away that easily. Green tea has a significant potential to manage dandruff and psoriasis. The anti-inflammatory effects of this tea extract and its compounds are the reason behind its potential effectiveness.
Green tea may promote the life cycles of skin cells. This healthy beverage may protect your skin and keep it healthy.
Many beauty products contain green tea because it can soothe skin. Now you know why this tea is highly regarded in the skincare industry.
9) Longer life
We all want to have a healthy and long life. That’s perfectly natural. This isn’t mission impossible. You can prolong your life just by making smart choices. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise are important. You may also want to drink green tea.
Green tea contains active compounds that protect you against diseases. Thereby, they can help you live longer. Studies confirm that consumption of green tea is associated with lower mortality.
Why are the catechins in green tea important?
Catechins were frequently mentioned throughout this article. Green tea owes its health benefits to these catechins.
So what are they?
Why are they important?
We will start with polyphenol first. Polyphenols are active compounds in green tea whose components are medically relevant the most. The most important tea polyphenol is a flavonoid. The most pertinent flavonoids are catechins.
Catechins account for 80% to 90% of the green tea flavonoids and 40% of the water-soluble solids in this tea. The most significant catechins in green tea are:
- Epicatechin (E.C.)
- Epigallocatechin (EGC)
- Epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG)
- Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)
The most abundant catechin in green tea is EGCG (about 60%). Most studies focus on metabolite EGCG, but some also evaluate other catechins in this beverage. Epigallocatechin gallate also happens to be the most powerful tea antioxidant. This little compound is the main “culprit” behind the health benefits of green tea.
You see, catechins are natural antioxidants with the potential to prevent cell damage. They provide many other effects, and EGCG is the most powerful of them all.
Catechins work through multiple mechanisms of action, including:
- Lipid-lowering effects
As antioxidants, catechins scavenge and neutralize free radicals. They also inhibit pro-oxidant enzymes and induce antioxidant enzymes. By activating endothelial nitric oxide, catechins regulate vascular tone and improve blood flow. They prevent vascular inflammation. Inflammation of blood vessels promotes atherosclerosis, which would lead to heart disease.
The importance of catechins is simple. They keep us healthy and help improve our health. With catechins, we can be healthier in a natural way. Catechins are also responsible for the distinctive flavor of green tea infusion.
It’s useful to mention that green tea is safe—however, some report it may contribute to liver damage. Of course, this isn’t a normal reaction to the tea. Liver problems aren’t common. The risk would increase with abnormally high consumption.
Does green tea have the most catechins?
The short answer is – yes. Green tea contains more catechins than any other tea.
High levels of catechins in green tea are due to the way it’s processed after harvesting. As a reminder, unoxidized leaves are used for green tea. Since it’s less processed, green tea is more abundant in catechins. Other types of tea are more processed, and their catechins levels are lower.
It’s important to mention that various factors affect catechin content, such as:
- Location where the tea is grown
- Growth conditions
- When it’s harvested
- Leaves processing
- Brewing temperature
- Duration of brewing
Younger green tea leaves contain the highest catechin concentration and most amino acids. Not all green teas on the market contain the same amount of catechins. Before you buy, read the labels and learn more about brands.
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Green tea is beneficial for our health and quality of life. Health benefits of green tea occur thanks to catechins. They are active compounds with the potential to tackle oxidative stress and other problems. If you don’t drink green tea, you should start. You’ll love it.
If you’re not a tea drinker, you can always choose a green tea supplement. This tea should be an adjunct to a healthy lifestyle. It would be wrong to rely on the tea only without making physical activity levels and diet changes. Green tea should be a part of a healthy way of living. A healthy person is a happy person, so try it out.