Green Tea May Prevent Bone Diseases

New research coming out of Hong Kong finds that green tea may boost bone health. Researchers suggest that the brew may not only prevent but might even be a treatment for osteoporosis and the many other bone diseases affecting millions all over the world.

The new study comes from Dr. Ping Chung Leung and a team of researchers hailing from the Institute of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong’s Chinese University. A report on the study appeared in the August 2009 online issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Previous studies have shown that the chemicals contained in green tea hold numerous health benefits such as a preventative against heart disease and cancer; however, this is the first time that research has demonstrated that those chemicals can also improve bone health. It appears that these beneficial chemicals stimulate the formation of bone while slowing bone deterioration.

Dynamic System Human bone is not made up of dead tissue but is a live and dynamic system with its own metabolism. This bone system relies on a fragile balance of bone formation and resorption. Osteoblasts are the cells responsible for making bone, while osteoclasts are the cells responsible for resorption.

In this study, the research team took cultured rat cells resembling osteoblasts and exposed them to three forms of catechin chemicals (found in green tea) over a period of several days. The three forms of catechin given included gallocatechin gallate (GCG), gallocatechin (GC), and epigallocatechin (EGC). All three are major chemicals found in green tea.

The researchers discovered that the catechin known as EGC in particular, provided stimulus to an important enzyme that boosted bone growth by a whopping 79%. Increasing the levels of EGC also raised the level of the bone’s mineralization, which gives strength to bones. In addition, EGC appeared to weaken the osteoclast activity, which helped sway bone metabolism in the direction of formation and away from resorption.

Positive Benefits The bone cells did not appear to suffer any toxic effects from the catechin treatment.

The researchers concluded that green tea catechins, especially EGC, appear to have positive benefits for bone metabolism by promoting the osteoblastic activity while at the same time inhibiting the activity of the osteoclasts.

One bone disease for which these findings may turn out to be very important is osteoporosis in which the quality and density of human bone is compromised, thus raising the risk for bone fractures.