Over the past decade, the popularity of green tea has exploded. Experts say that its touted health benefits are driving consumer demand.
You can now find green tea on the menu at most restaurants and cafes, in nearly all grocery stores, as a supplement, and in beauty products.
Is health-nut-driven enthusiasm for green tea all hype, or does it have real health benefits?
The combination of animal and human studies on green tea published so far indicate remarkable health benefits.
In fact, due to its many bioactive compounds, you may want to swap out your coffee for green tea!
About Green Tea
Derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, unlike black and oolong teas, which are oxidized to varying degrees, green tea is only minimally oxidized. It’s processed using traditional methods (sun-drying, basket-firing, or pan-firing) or modern methods (oven-drying, tumbling, or steaming).
Chief among these polyphenolic compounds is a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). An amino acid called theanine (or l-theanine) and small amount of caffeine also contribute to some of green tea’s brain and body benefits.
Here are some of the most-studied health benefits of green tea…
7 Unexpected Health Benefits of Green Tea
- Heart Health
The cardiovascular benefits of green tea consumption are widely recognized. One study followed more than 40,000 participants aged 40-79 for 11 years. It found that those who drank at least five cups of green tea per day had a lower risk of mortality due to heart health issues.
Additional studies indicate that the polyphenols in green tea may support health blood pressure levels, as well as help to improve vascular health and better blood flow. A study looking at supplementation with green tea’s EGCG showed that it may support healthy total and LDL cholesterol levels too.
- Antioxidant Protection
The polyphenols found in green tea have substantial free radical scavenging activity and may protect cells from DNA damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Of course, this can help stave off several health issues that result from damaged cells.
The antioxidant action can help protect the skin from damaging exposure to the sun. Currently, there’s a clinical trial underway examining how green tea can protect prostate health. Epidemiological studies indicate that green tea consumption is associated with breast health protection too.
- Relaxation and Cognition
A nice cup of green tea is a great way to relieve stress and boost your brain function.
Green tea’s l-theanine works by way of nerve cell receptors for GABA, glutamate, and other neurotransmitters, and has calming effects. It helps to increase dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain, which create a pleasant, relaxed state.
In clinical research, l-theanine has been found to help boost attention, mood, cognition, and even quality of sleep. However, it doesn’t diminish alertness.
Green tea’s caffeine works well with l-theanine to enhance brain function, including mood, vigilance, reaction time, and memory. Some people have a more even, focused energy that allows for better productivity when they drink green tea, compared with coffee, which has about three times the amount of caffeine.
- Supports Healthy Blood Sugar
Those who drink green tea may have more stable blood sugar levels. A randomized controlled trial found a correlation between green tea consumption and decreased fasting glucose and fasting insulin levels. Additionally, a 2017 review of dietary polyphenol studies associated green tea (as part of the Mediterranean-type of diet), with a reduced risk of blood sugar health issues.
- Protects Memory
Green tea may help to keep your memory sharp as you age.
One small study suggests that green tea can enhance a person’s working memory and other cognitive functions. The double-blind study found that green tea may be helpful in addressing cognitive impairments associated with neurodegenerative memory issues. A meta-analysis of 26 observational studies suggested that daily tea drinking is associated with a decreased risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.
- Improves Breath
A published review of two articles found that green tea can reduce volatile sulfur compound-producing bacteria. In particular, EGCG had inhibitory effects on the growth or adhesion of several common oral bacteria. The review states, “Green tea can reduce halitosis through rinsing and antimicrobial effect.”
- Healthy Weight
Green tea holds promise in supporting healthy weight. As mentioned, green tea has a mild amount of caffeine, but it still contains enough to have an effect. Caffeine has been found to aid fat burning and improve exercise performance in numerous studies.
What’s more, it works synergistically with EGCG, which also has metabolism-boosting effects. However, the studies used concentrated amounts of EGCG, more than what you’d consume from drinking tea. More research is needed.
Take Time Out for Tea
Probably the best immediate health benefit from drinking green tea comes from simply taking a tea break. Enjoy!
Green Tea Tips for Maximum Benefit
- Let boiling water cool for a moment before steeping as boiling water can destroy EGCG content.
- Add some lemon! Vitamin C makes the tea’s catechins easier to absorb. (Conversely, dairy makes it harder to absorb them.)
- Quality matters. A high-quality green tea usually has more nutrients.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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