The Benefits of Green Tea

JUNE 30, 2005 --Workers at Folks Café on Market Street in Wilmington are serving up more green tea these days. The latest hype about the ancient drink is creating quite a stir.

Dietician Heidi Kaufman with New Hanover Regional Medical Center says it's one of the healthiest, natural foods available. She says it's a drink almost everyone should be sipping.

"It's really an exciting product or natural food because it has so many positive things that it does."

For starters, ongoing research suggests sipping green tea regularly might help prevent various types of cancer, guard against heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels and reducing blood pressure, and promote longevity. One large-scale study in China found that people who drank as little as one cup of green tea a week for six months had a reduced risk of developing rectal, pancreatic and other types of cancer.

Green tea contains a potent source of antioxidants, the same beneficial compounds found in fruits and vegetables.

"They're similar in a way to vitamin E and vitamin C, but they seem to be a little more powerful in terms of their protective effect for heart disease and stroke," says Kaufman.

Initial studies also suggest green tea promotes weight loss by boosting your metabolism. Swiss researchers have preliminary evidence that green tea accelerates the burning of fat calories in people who are overweight. Scientists suggest you drink the caffeinated version. It's been found the decaffeinated green tea won't help as much for the weight loss.

"If you chose to drink the decaffeinated version, you'll still get all the other benefits of green tea. You'll still get the antioxidants effect, but you won't get as much of that boosting of the metabolism if you go with the decaf green tea," says Kaufman.

Some researchers suggest drinking as many as seven cups a day while others say at least three or four. They say if you drink only one cup a day, you're better off taking a green tea supplement found at most grocery stores and pharmacies.

Also, depending on the brand, some green tea supplements provide a more potent antioxidant effect than the brewed version. Green tea leaf is 8% to 12% polyphenols (the key antioxidants) while the capsules can contain anywhere from 50% to 90% polyphenols, depending on the brand.

To get an adequate amount of polyphenols, some studies have found you need three to four cups of green tea a day or 100 mg of the extract in a capsule form.

Studies show it doesn't matter how you drink green tea, hot or cold, the benefits are still the same. Also, there's no difference if you prepare the green tea with loose leaves or a tea bag, but do try to find bags that haven't been lying around for months. Make sure you never brew green tea with boiling water. Some researchers say they believe the high temperature can destroy its therapeutic compounds.

Most of the side effects of green tea are a result of its caffeine content. Most green tea supplements have very little caffeine. But, one cup of brewed tea has about 40 milligrams of caffeine. That's the same amount as a can of soda. As always, check with your doctor before you begin any medical program or diet.

Reported by Kim Fields