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The Health Benefits of Green Tea

I have been meaning to write a post on the health benefits of green tea for some time now, and have mentioned it many times in past posts, but never a post that focuses solely on green tea. Finally, here it is:

Green tea is one of those rare herbal products growing in consumer popularity mainly because scientific research has validated its health benefits. As a supplement it is being marketed towards prevention of cancer, although green tea has also been linked in research to benefits like preventing diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and other chronic diseases, along with no notable evidence of severe adverse risks even at fairly high dosages (1600 mg of green tea catechins or about 6 - 7 cups of tea per day), the impetus for consuming green tea and its healthful components is strong.

Green Tea's Popularity

Culturally, green tea has been around for many centuries and lauded for its health benefits. Whether it truly was a benefit and how much wasn't fully revealed until recent decades, when studies into the benefits of green tea made it possible to how much it truly benefits tea drinkers.

The tea leaf industry dominates, but there has also been growth in green tea supplements (pills) for those people too lazy to remember to drink a cup or two of green tea per day.

All this talk about green tea has made me thirsty. I am going to go put a kettle on.

And while that is brewing I am going to make a list of all the tea in my cabinet...

  1. Alpine Punch Tea (rooibos, coconut, apple, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, black pepper, rose blossoms, almonds).
  2. Blueberry Tea (blueberry, ginseng, gingko).
  3. Camomile Tea.
  4. Chai Black Tea.
  5. Cinnamon Tea, two different kinds.
  6. Earl Grey, Decaffeinated Tea.
  7. English Breakfast Tea, two different kinds.
  8. Green Tea, three different kinds.
  9. Ginger Tea (ginger, stevia, black tea).
  10. Honeybush Tea (honeybush, safflowers, sunflower petals).
  11. Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea (black tea, cinnamon, cloves, orange peel).
  12. Korean Barley Tea or 보리차 (toasted barley).
  13. Korean Plum Tea or 매실차 (plum, sugar, honey).
  14. Korean Ssanghwa Tea or 쌍화차 (ssanghwa powder with crushed almonds).
  15. Mekong Cinnamon Tea.
  16. Moroccan Mint Tea.
  17. Orange Pekoe Tea.
  18. Peppermint Tea.
  19. Traditional English Tea

Now some of those teas actually belong to my girlfriend (#3, #4, #7, #9, #16, #17, #18 + #19), but to be fair the lion's share of them (11 out of 19) are mine. Thus it would be logical to assume the following:

#1. I must really like tea.
#2. I apparently really like cinnamon tea (this is true).
#3. I really like Korean teas, likely due to my time spent living in South Korea.
#4. I still have 3 different kinds of green tea, although I must admit it is not my favourite.

And those are just the teas I was able to find in the cabinets on short notice. We might have other packages of tea hiding in tins hiding behind pancake mix or bags of rice in other cabinets. I could drink tea every day for a year and probably not run out.

Anyway, lets get back to the topic of green tea.

The Contents of Green Tea

Polyphenols, the major active components of green tea, is what is responsible for some of green tea's health benefits, whether are consumed as a tea or as a pill. However that is not the only active ingredient within green tea, so consuming a pill containing polyphenol doesn't necessarily give you all of the health benefits.

Green tea also contains the following compounds:
• Polyphenols: catechins, phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonols/antioxidants (kaempferol, quercetin, myricitin, and rutin)
• Xanthines: caffeine and caffeine-related stimulants (theobromine and theophylline)
• Vitamins: vitamin C and B vitamins
• Amino acids: L-theanine
• Microelements: aluminum, fluorides, manganese
• Essential oils
+ Boiled Water*** - Boiled water oddly enough has a long list of health benefits all by itself, but that is another topic for another day.

Green tea includes caffeine and caffeine-related stimulants, specific flavonols (which act as antioxidants), and the highly researched class of green tea catechins. Primary green tea catechins consist of epicatechin (EC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC), and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG, the most potent in this group, is responsible for most of green tea’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic properties - which is why green tea is so handy against preventing cancer.

So basically green tea has lots of vitamins in it, plus a host of anti-cancer ingredients, making it overall very useful for preventing cancer and promoting good health in general.

Risks of Green Tea

The U.S. FDA cites 400 mg as the safe threshold for daily caffeine consumption. Above 400 mg, health risks include gastrointestinal upset, muscle tremors, and palpitations. But to drink that much caffeine from green tea, you would need to drink the equivalent of 10 cups of coffee, or approx. 12 cups of green tea per day.

Tea leaves also tend to accumulate aluminum from soil, and chronic high aluminum exposure (more than 20 mg per day for a 150 lb. person) has been found to cause Alzheimer’s disease. However that is basically impossible to consume, as that would require drinking approx. 800 to 1200 cups of green tea per day. It should also be noted that many foods contain aluminum and that small doses of aluminum (approx. 0.1 mg per day) do have health benefits (increases immune response), whereas high doses (20 mg or more) of aluminum have health risks.

So basically the health risks of green tea are practically non existent, and could only result if someone was consuming ridiculous amounts every day beyond the normal amount.

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