Catechins Are Key to Good Health

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August 14, 2017 | 39,111 views

Story at-a-glance

  • A new study examining EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) in green tea determined it may counteract some of the ill effects of eating a high in unhealthy fats and high-fructose diet, commonly known as the “Western diet”
  • Antioxidant catechin compounds can help prevent heart disease and oxidative stress, improve skin, promote exercise recovery and help prevent high blood sugar, among other benefits
  • A toothpaste formula made from green tea could also help prevent cavities and ease pain for people with sensitive teeth

By Dr. Mercola

If not for the fact it's been scientifically proven, you might say the health advantages of green tea are legendary. You may have heard the proverb "History became legend, and legend became myth." This is certainly something that could be said about green tea, as unfortunately it's shifted far into the background for most Americans, undoubtedly because it pales in comparison in popularity to the bold brew known as coffee and the derivatives thereof.

It's unfortunate because green tea contains a particularly powerful ingredient researchers have recognized for some pretty spectacular benefits. However, many of them have been known to ancient healers for millennia. The latest studies indicate a new interest that shouldn't be taken lightly. To unpack the benefits, there's one compound in particular — antioxidant catechins — with potential for your mind as well as your body. As study author Xuebo Liu explains:

"Green tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and is grown in at least 30 countries. The ancient habit of drinking green tea may be a more acceptable alternative to medicine when it comes to combating obesity, insulin resistance and memory impairment."1

Study: How Green Tea Compound Can Protect Your Body and Brain

How sad is it that a meal regimen loaded with sugar and all the wrong fats is often referred to as "the Western diet?" But a new study shows that epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, is a catechin that may help counteract the negative effects of this notoriously nutrition-deficient approach to food. While the initial study2 was done on mice, scientists believe the same antioxidant effects would apply to humans.

The researchers' goal was to investigate the protective effects of EGCG treatment on insulin resistance and memory impairment induced by a high-fat and high-fructose diet (HFFD). The researchers divided 3-month-old mice into three groups and gave each group a different diet: the control group, a high-fat and high-fructose diet, and a HFFD plus EGCG. Although3 more research is needed to know exactly how much ECGC is needed, here's what they found four months later:4

Those are some pretty dramatic improvements — and to think the same may be available to humans simply by consuming EGCG is extremely compelling. In addition, the mice eating the HFFD were heavier than those eating the regular diet, and significantly heavier than the HFFD mice supplemented with EGCG. Further, the HFFD mice showed greater memory impairment than the others. 

These aren't the first positive results; one study highlighted the effect of drinking green tea on breast cancer due to the high catechin content.5 Additionally, green tea aficionados who drink at least five cups per day were shown in another study to have a 28 percent decrease in their heart disease risk6 (the black tea also tested in the study reflected no such benefit).

Forbes noted that most studies on green tea have been done on people in Asia, or at least on people eating what is considered an Asian diet, which is quite different from what is typically consumed in the U.S. However, believing the findings to be a sort of green light to gastronomical cart blanche is a move in the wrong direction, Forbes noted. "It's more an exploration of how powerful the effects of dietary antioxidants can be."7

10 Benefits of Green Tea Extract

If drinking green tea has those kinds of benefits for your health, you can imagine what else the catechin compounds can do for you. Authority Nutrition8 lists several possible advantages of green tea extract and/or supplementation, connected to a number of clinical studies:

Health benefits range from promoting heart, liver and brain health to improving your skin and reducing your cancer risk9

Green tea is high in EGCG, which may reduce oxidative stress by fighting cell damage caused by free radicals10

Benefits exercise and recovery beyond exercise as it can reduce cellular damage and delay muscle fatigue11 and provide enhanced antioxidant protection and exercise performance12

Protects your brain from Alzheimer's and dementia, decreases heavy metal toxicity,13 improves memory and increases brain function14

Helps with weight loss due to the combination of catechins and caffeine,15 regulating thermogenesis hormones16

May reduce your cancer risk, as EGCG helps balance cell production and death,17 and may lower risks of prostate and breast cancers18

Improves skin, including dermatitis, rosacea, warts, skin aging and acne,19 improves elasticity, reduces sun damage

Helps lower blood sugar by enhancing insulin sensitivity and regulating blood sugar production20 and decreasing fasting blood sugar levels21

Benefits liver function by reducing inflammation from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), liver enzyme levels22 and fat content and inflammation23

Antioxidants promote heart health by reducing blood fat levels,24 blood pressure, inflammation and triglycerides,25 and burns more calories26

Interestingly, another study showed that individuals with higher than average waist sizes (central obesity) experienced a weight decrease after drinking green tea for 12 weeks, as well as lowered waist circumference and body mass index.27 Green tea extract can increase the antioxidant capacity in your body.

Regarding cell damage from free radicals, another study notes their nefarious association with several serious diseases, as well as aging, which is another reason why drinking more green tea is a good idea, or even taking green tea supplements.28

Another Toothsome Advantage of Green Tea Consumption

Sensitive teeth often prevent people from drinking hot or cold beverages, but this is another problem green tea may help with. A green tea formulated toothpaste addresses the problem, and is said to ease the pain of sensitivity in teeth and preventing cavities as a bonus. This bit of research presents a remedy for a related dilemma, as existing toothpastes for sensitive teeth haven't had the best track record in retaining their effects for very long. Daily Mail notes:

"Dental erosion is often the most common cause of pain or discomfort to the teeth. A phytochemical in the herbal drink has previously been shown to fight a bacteria which causes tooth decay. The new mixture combines this with an ingredient commonly used in sensitive toothpastes and an essential mineral for strong teeth."29

Erosion that attacks tooth enamel exposes a bony tissue known as dentin, which contains microscopic hollow tubes that, when exposed, allows foods and hot and cold liquids to make contact with underlying nerve endings in the teeth, exacerbating the pain. Unprotected dentin can also speed up cavity formation.

Dentists generally approach the problem by plugging the tubes with a mineral called nanohydroxyapatite, but brushing, teeth grinding and acid produced by bacteria and erosion over time breaks the material down, further exposing the dentin and causing resumed pain.

Chinese researchers used both nanohydroxyapatite and green tea extract (which, incidentally, has been shown to successfully combat streptococcus mutans, which forms biofilms on teeth that can cause cavities) along with the nanoparticles of the mineral silica, which resists damage from acid. Additionally:

"The team tested this on extracted wisdom teeth and found that the formula plugged the dentin tubules. It also released EGCG for at least 96 hours and stood up to tooth erosion and abrasive brushing and prevented biofilm formation (and) showed low toxicity."30

Green tea also serves to freshen your breath due to its natural ability to keep sugar-based plaque from forming on teeth, and captures sulphur-containing compounds that can cause odor. Here are another couple of benefits from green tea that you can sink your teeth into: One or more cups of green tea a day can increases your chances of keeping your teeth as you age, a Japanese study reports, although sugar added to your tea may negate the effect. And say no to artificial sweeteners.

Ditch the 'Western Diet' — Here's a Better Way of Eating

Contrary to conventional advice, a ketogenic diet — which is very low in net carbohydrates and high in healthy fats — is actually a vital key to boosting mitochondrial function, thereby suppressing disease and supporting healing.

The importance of avoiding unhealthy fats and using healthy fats in your diet simply cannot be overstated. When your body is able to burn fat for fuel, your liver creates water-soluble fats called ketones that burn far more efficiently than carbs, thereby creating fewer reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals that can damage your cellular and mitochondrial cell membranes, proteins and DNA.

Ketones also decrease inflammation, improve glucose metabolism and aid the building of muscle mass. Healthy fats also play an important role in maintaining your body's electrical system. As mentioned, a ketogenic diet focuses on the three keys to achieving nutritional ketosis: minimal carbohydrates, moderate amounts of high-quality protein and high amounts of healthy fats. Green tea can also be included as a healthy beverage option to boost your overall health and well-being.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1, 7 Forbes July 31, 2017
  • 2, 4 FASEB Journal July 24, 2017
  • 3 Men’s Health August 1, 2017
  • 5 Carcinogenesis November Volume 27, Issue 7, 1 July 2006, Pages 1310–1315
  • 6 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition January 19, 2011
  • 8 Authority Nutrition 2012-2017
  • 9 Journal of the American College of Nutrition June 14, 2013
  • 10 Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2003;43(1):89-143
  • 11 Med J Sports Exerc. 1999 Jul;31(7):987-97
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  • 15 J Nurt Biochem. 2011 Jan;22(1):1-7
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  • 21 Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug;98(2):340-8
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  • 24 Curr Med Chem. 2008;15(18):1840-50
  • 25 Nutr Res. 2012 Jun;32(6):421-7
  • 27 Clinical Nutrition June 2016, Vol. 35, Issue 3, pages 592-599
  • 28 Curr Top Med Chem. 2015;15(2):105-19
  • 29, 30 Daily Mail August 3, 2017