Green tea has been linked to a wide array of disease-fighting benefits, from reducing cardiovascular disease, preventing breast cancer, slowing the progression of lymphocytic leukemia, and, more recently, preventing or slowing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have long wondered if the phytochemicals which are found in freshly brewed green tea remain protective and active in the body once the tea is consumed by humans.
Anti-Cancer Properties of Green Tea?
Unfortunately, many of the foods which are considered exceptionally healthy don’t necessarily translate into the body absorbing those compounds. Much to the delight of the researchers, they found that when green tea is digested in our stomachs, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against several “triggers” of Alzheimer’s than the undigested form. They also found that once digested, the green tea offered significant anti-cancer properties, actually slowing down the growth of tumors in the body.
Beta Amyloid Blocker
The natural compounds in both black and green tea–which are called polyphenols–bind with hydrogen peroxide and a protein known as beta-amyloid. Beta amyloid has long been known to play a role in Alzheimer’s development, so this was good news for the scientists, as well as the fact that the digested green tea chemicals effectively prevented the toxins linked to Alzheimer’s disease from destroying the normal, healthy, cells.
EGCG in Green Tea
The researcher’s bottom line seemed to be that drinking green tea on a regular basis can prevent the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life, and may also be able to slow-or prevent-several types of cancer. An earlier study, detailed in the Journal of Neuroscience, looked at the protective properties of EGCG, which also acts as a protein blocker, stopping the chemical reactions which appear to lead to nerve damage and memory loss in their tracks. EGCG could reduce and even prevent the formation of plaques in the brain, known to be responsible for the diminishing cognitive functioning of dementia. ECGC is a powerful antioxidant, something of a nutritional fighter of diseases. Scientists think that these antioxidants neutralize free radicals which are drawn to parts of the body which are rich in fat-including the brain cells which are almost completely made up of lipids.
What the Alzheimer’s Society Thinks About Green Tea
The Alzheimer’s Society is a bit more cautious in their assessment of these studies, and while they concede that certain properties in green tea may help prevent the onset of dementia, the process by which it does so is not thoroughly understood, meaning much more study is necessary to fully understand how green tea may halt or slow the progression of dementia. A study in Japan found that drinking two to three cups of green tea per day can reduce your chance of getting dementia by half, however it’s known that the Japanese tend to lead much healthier lifestyles than we do in America, so it is uncertain how much of the study’s results were from the ingestion of green tea, and how much was due to their healthy lifestyle.
Black and Oolong Tea
While green tea is certainly the over-achiever in the tea family, black tea and oolong tea are hardly slouches themselves. After all, they are all in the same family and all come from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The primary difference between black, green and oolong teas lies in their preparation, most specifically how long the leaves are aged before drying. Black tea is usually aged the longest, and green tea the least. The process of aging, however, tends to decrease the amounts of antioxidants the tea leaves contain, which probably explains why green tea is so powerful against disease.