Originally created 05/23/00

Age-old questions: Green tea may have benefits



Q: Are there any benefits from drinking green tea? - T.C., Blythe

A: What has long been a drink of choice in China, Japan and Korea is now gaining popularity in the West. Medical research suggests that drinking green tea can help you lead a healthier life.

According to these studies, green tea contains powerful elements, known as polyphenols, that have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Also known as strong antioxidants, green tea's polyphenols are believed to help ward off infections. It also contains vitamin K, which promotes normal growth and development and helps treat some bleeding disorders.

Green tea is related to the common supermarket tea but is processed differently. Its leaves are steamed or heated, while supermarket tea leaves are exposed to heat and light and are then crushed. The processing of green tea preserves its unique flavor and aroma.

Green tea contains only 30 percent to 40 percent of the caffeine found in a cup of coffee. With the increased popularity of green tea, some suppliers now provide decaffeinated tea.

Last year, a study performed by the National Cancer Institute linked green teas to the possible prevention of some cancers, including those of the digestive and urinary tracts. Tests on animals have indicated a possible reduction in the risk for oral cavity cancer.

According to Food & Fitness Advisor, green and black teas appear to "prevent cancer cells from multiplying." To obtain such health benefits, researchers recommend drinking four to seven cups of tea per day. However, further testing is needed to determine the true effects of drinking tea on health.

According to researchers for the American Chemical Society, green tea extracts in tablet form also were found to help contribute to heart health. A group of 18 men had lower levels of harmful fats in the bloodstream after undergoing the test. Additionally, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that green tea may help increase the good form of cholesterol in the body while lowering total cholesterol. For this effect, however, the subjects drank more than 10 cups of green tea per day.

Herbal teas are often mistaken for green teas. These teas do not possess the antioxidant qualities of green tea or black tea. Green and black teas are made from the plant known as Camellia sinensis, while herbal teas are made from a variety of plants.

All things are best in moderation, and green tea is no different. According to Food & Fitness Advisor, the only adverse effect known for green tea is "an increased risk of esophageal cancer linked to the regular consumption of boiling hot liquid."

To brew green tea, it is recommended that you store the tea leaves in a dark, airtight container. Toss a few in a teapot and cover them with boiling water. After allowing the tea to cool slightly, enjoy this treat from your favorite mug.

If you have a question or would like additional information, please write to Shirley McIntosh, Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.