Researchers are finding out more and more benefits which can be derived from sipping green tea, and one of these includes improvements in bone strength and health. In a study done in Hong Kong, it was found that green tea contains specific chemicals which both stimulate bone formation as well as help slow the breakdown of bones as happens in osteoporosis. Millions of people worldwide are affected by osteoporosis, and while we have already heard about green tea’s amazing benefits in the prevention of cancer and heart disease, the findings about bone health could be really good news–especially for seniors who are susceptible to bone loss.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease in which people suffer from low bone mass or deterioration of the bone tissue which leads to fragile bones. Women are four times as likely as men to develop soft bones and fractures because of the decrease in bone mineral density which occurs in the first 3-5 years following menopause. The loss of estrogen causes women to develop lighter and thinner bones, and nearly half of all postmenopausal women will end up suffering a bone fracture as a result of osteoporosis. Overall poor bone health is a major problem in the elderly, however recent evidence shows a definitive association between tea consumption and the prevention of age-related bone loss. The bioactive compounds in green tea can decrease the risk of the typical bone fractures seen in the elderly, most particularly in the hip, spine and wrist.
Bio-availability of Green Tea
Tea–both green and black varieties-come from the dried leaves of the Camellia sinensis. Worldwide, approximately 78% of the tea produced is black tea while 20% is green tea and 2% is oolong, which is produced mostly in southern china. Green tea is produced by drying or roasting the fresh tea leaves at extremely high temperatures which inactivates the oxidizing enzymes. Black tea undergoes the longest period of aging, and green tea leaves the least. Since aging the leaves decreases the overall amount of antioxidants the leaves contain, this is probably the reason green tea is so highly effective against our modern-day diseases.
Polyphenols in Green Tea
Green tea has been consumed in the Orient for centuries, but has more recently become a mainstay across the globe, due to the compounds known as polyphenols which are potent antioxidants. Studies have shown time and again that people who consume the highest levels of polyphenols in green tea have significantly lower risks of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and now, osteoporosis. The mechanism behind these health benefits is not entirely understood by scientists, however they speculate that it could have something to do with lowering chronic levels of inflammation.
Green Tea and Tai Chi
Dr. Shen, a physician from Taiwan, has spent over twenty years studying how Eastern lifestyle choices, such as the consumption of green tea, could provide significant benefits for the Western world as well. Dr. Shen has studied extensively how bones breakdown in women, leading to osteoporosis, most especially in postmenopausal women who have lower levels of estrogen, and has recently connected the potential for green tea to work in tandem with tai chi, a traditional form of aerobic fitness which stresses the mind-body connection. 171 postmenopausal women who had weakened bones, but not full-fledged osteoporosis, were studied in a double blind experiment. There were four groups in the study: the first received only a placebo and did no tai chi exercises, the second received green tea polyphenols and did no tai chi, the third group received a placebo but engaged in tai chi three times per week, and the fourth group received green tea polyphenols and engaged in tai chi exercises three times per week. The amount of polyphenols given was equivalent to 4-6 cups of green tea per day. The most remarkable effects in the study were in the fourth group who showed the most significant improvements in the reduction in oxidative stress, which is the precursor to inflammation.