Green Tea is also a key element of cancer prevention. « Researchers have known for years that the incidence of prostate cancer is considerably lower in Asian countries. One possible explanation advanced by scientists is the high consumption of plant foods among Asian populations.
Another is the growing number of laboratory studies indicating that green tea — the most popular tea in China, Japan and other Asian countries — has anti-tumor effects. Green tea contains more polyphenols — chemicals that act as powerful antioxidants and nontoxic, cancer preventive agents — than black tea. It has been speculated that the low lung cancer rate in Japan — despite the high rate of smoking — is due to green tea consumption. »
Dry green tea leaves are about 40% polyphenols by weight, and the most potent of these is EGCG. A team of scientists at Purdue University determined: « In the presence of EGCg, the cancer cells literally failed to grow or enlarge after division then presumably because they did not reach the minimum size needed to divide they underwent programmed cell death, or apoptosis. »
EGCG, an antioxidant, is considered many times more potent than the Vitamin E or Vitamin C antioxidant properties. In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG is twice as powerful as resveratrol, which itself is known to kill cancer cells.
The anti-cancer properties of EGCG are the focus of a great many research studies. A search among the published literature reveals that over 100 such studies were published in 2005 alone. Also, a number of clinical trials are currently underway, investigating the response of a number of different kinds of cancer to green tea extract. EGCG’s anti-cancer properties are believed to be wide-ranging. As well as powerful antioxidative properties (which are greater than vitamins C and E), it is thought to inhibit the action of carcinogens, induce the natural death (apoptosis) of cancer cells, inhibit the inter-cell signalling that switches on cancer genes, inhibit the expression of COX-2 and other enzymes involved in the development of cancer, regulate bodily immune and inflammatory responses, and inhibit production of the VEGFs (vascular endothelial growth factors) required for the growth of blood vessels to developing tumours.
As a cancer-fighting substance, far larger quantities of the active catechins are required than can be consumed by drinking a few cups of green tea per day. Hence the popularity of green tea extracts. However, the quality of such extracts can vary considerably, and it is advisable to source an extract in which the concentration of catechins/polyphenols (especially EGCG), is standardized. And if you don’t want to consume a large quantity of caffeine, then choose a decaffeinated extract.
The side effects of green tea include weight loss, and various effects associated with caffeine. People with heart or kidney problems, stomach ulcers, stress-related problems, or who want to avoid the stimulating effects of caffeine, are therefore better off with decaffeinated green tea or extract. Caffeine also interacts with various pharmaceutical products, including heart and blood pressure drugs, oral contraceptives, sedatives, and drugs used for depression. Large quantities of green tea have also been shown to interact with blood-thinning drugs like aspirin and warfarin. People on these kinds of medication should consult with their doctor before taking green tea. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should also avoid green tea.
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