Green tea is a popular health beverage derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Originating from China, green tea was slowly introduced all over the world and has extensively been studied for its health benefits.
Its health benefits are mainly due to its high flavonoids content, compounds that target oxidants. The essence of its benefits may lie on how it is produced versus other types of tea. Green tea does not undergo fermentation, allowing retention of more antioxidants and other metabolites. It has also been found out that even after it undergoes digestion in the body, most of these compounds remain in the body and avoid immediate excretion. It has been cited to promote vigor and alertness, but without increasing the heart rate and palpitations that other beverages containing caffeine do. It also does not illicit frequent urination and insomnia which are associated with caffeine.
There are a number of studies that show regular green tea consumers have lower risks of acquiring heart diseases and several cancers including breast, bladder, skin, lung and colon. Although it has not been proven that green tea could raise the metabolic rate high enough to immediately promote weight loss, it is also cited to aid in weight maintenance and control through proper food digestion and fat oxidation.
Antioxidants in green tea, or catechins, attack free radicals that can damage cells through damaging the DNA and contribute to cancer, blood clots and disrupt normal body functions. They also help in cell regeneration promoting wellness and recuperation. Catechins have been studied to be more active than vitamins C and E when it comes to reducing oxidative damage to body cells.
Notably, green tea has been found out to help people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized with movement disorders which progressively lead from trembling of the hands or limbs and head while at rest, stiffness, and problems with balance until even simple motor movements become difficult. It is due to a lack of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is from the dopamine-producing cells in the brain area called substantia nigra. Dopamine is responsible for the interconnection between the brain areas: substantia nigra and corpus striatum, which in turn are responsible for smooth, purposeful movements.
Green tea is beneficial for Parkinson’s in that, green tea extract epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG, has a neuroprotective property that inhibits the enzyme which causes apoptosis or cell death. Also, consumed with anti-Parkinsonian drugs such as rasigiline, studies have shown that green tea produces a synergistic effect that boosts the drug action in replenishing dopamine levels. This increase in dopamine in turn, target and activate impacted multiple brain areas and help reduce involuntary motor movements.
Some studies also utilize green tea as part of a multi-modal approach to treating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. They theorized that green tea catechins combined with drugs to reduce inflammation and other immune-modulating drugs may offer more effective means to prevent and treat the disease. The moderate caffeine content of green tea as well as other alkaloids like theobromine and theophylline are natural stimulants which aid in minimizing uncontrolled movements helping patients carry on with activities of daily living.
On the other hand, consuming green tea on a daily basis also protects against dementia disorders especially Alzheimer’s Disease. Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type (SDAT) or just simpy Alzheimer’s, is a neurologic disease which affects the brain through the loss of neurons, and intellectual capabilities of memory and reasoning.
It starts out mildly, from forgetting simple information like names of acquaintances, the location of personal items. Overtime, difficulty with language, mood swings and long-term memory loss become slowly evident with variable progression. It goes on unrecognized until the disease has progressed and signs and symptoms become severe enough to impede social and occupational functioning. Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s still remains to be uncovered, hallmarks of this disease are amyloid plaques and neurofribrillary tangles in the brain. Specifically, amyloid plaques appear to produce disruptions in the brain cells.Alzheimer’s remained to elude any cure as of today. However, a myriad of treatments are available, including natural remedies like green tea to prevent the onset of the disease.
Green tea metabolites contain polyphenol, compounds which remain in the body after digestion takes place. More specifically, a type called flavonol, this polyphenol has been shown to have neuroprotective qualities. They bind with hydrogen peroxide and the beta-amyloid protein–two compounds that play a significant effect in the development of the disease, and protect the brain cells. They reduce cell death and anti-cancer properties fight off growth of tumor cells which can later contribute to cell degeneration. Another theory is that, with the concentration of these metabolites that are retained after normal digestive processes of the body, more antioxidants are utilized and made available to fight off toxins.
Over all, green tea is more than just a traditional drink served from the East to the world. How it is processed is the key in preserving and reaping the most of its antioxidants, which is very beneficial in the promotion and maintenance of health. Since tea is also known to have properties that protect the liver, patients who take in multiple drugs are better protected from toxins and inflammation.
To get the most out of this beverage, it is recommended to take 3 cups of green tea a day. Steep tea for three to five minutes, and drink it while it is freshly brewed. This allows more catechins and flavonoids to be extracted from the tea, and absorbed by the body. Daily consumption of green tea to complement a healthy lifestyle with diet and regular exercise reduces the risk of acquiring diseases. And for patients already suffering, especially with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, health properties of green tea can allow them to better cope with their condition.