Fact or Fiction: The Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea
Green tea is a staple of many peoples’ lives but did you know about all the health benefits that it has?
Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world and is consumed in many different countries in a variety of ways. Although you can go to the store and purchase many different “types,” the majority of tea comes from one type of tea bush. Black tea, green tea and white tea all come from the same bush. White tea is the made from the top leaf/leaves of the bush. Green tea is made from green leaves before they have been oxidized and then become what we know as black tea. The other teas that you can buy at the store like chamomile, ginger, fruit flavored, rooibos, mint, licorice or other herbal mixes are not actually tea and do not provide the same health benefits as green tea or black tea.
Green Tea and Your Health
All tea, black, white and green, contain antioxidants. However, green tea is primarily touted for health benefits because of the antioxidants that it contains. Specifically, green tea contains flavonoids, often referred to as catechins. Green tea has ~3.5x the amount of catechins that black tea does but black tea has far more of other types of antioxidants.
Although there have been many studies on the impact of tea on your health, be aware that tea consumption and health indices are hard to specifically determine cause and effect. Lifestyles, diets, and environments all have an impact on your health and observational studies have a hard time showing what impact each variable has. Many countries that have high green tea intake and better health also have different diets and activity levels. Additionally, many studies look at the impact of one specific compound in tea like caffeine or antioxidants, often in amounts much higher than normal drinking habits. How you brew tea also has a large impact on the level of antioxidants. Brewing time and method, in addition to the quality of the tea, can have an influence on the actual antioxidant amount you are consuming.
Even though you may have to pee more frequently, drinking tea does contribute to staying hydrated.
There is limited evidence that there are any links to reducing cancer risk for humans. In some Epidemiologic studies that looked at the patterns, effects and causes of disease and health in populations, it was determined that green tea did have some link to reduced risk for some cancers like colon. Mixed results were found for decreasing the risk of breast cancer and lung cancer.
This has been one of the longest claims out there about green tea, that it can help you lose weight. However, much of the research that has been done on weight loss and green tea were done assessing rates of flavonoids and caffeine that may not be really what you are consuming in normal amounts. The antioxidant properties combined with caffeine may stimulate thermogenesis, or help burn energy.
Some research points to this increased energy use in addition to some fat oxidation. There additionally seems to be some indication that there is a positive effect for weight loss and then maintenance of that weight loss. Some of this weight loss could be that people are now drinking calorie-free tea whereas before they may have been drinking soda, energy drinks or other caloric beverages.
The research on green tea’s ability to control blood sugar is lacking. Conflicting results found some people had significantly lowered fasting blood glucose levels whereas others did not. Some studies found lower hemoglobin A1c levels. Other studies found no significance. But for people who have issues controlling their blood sugar, trying to add calorie-free green tea to your diet should only have potential health benefits.
Some of the most exciting potential health benefits are for improving heart health. It appears that the flavonoids/ antioxidants found in green tea help to reduce blood clotting and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Other research has found evidence that tea consumption reduced blood pressure; and total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. In comparison with black tea, green tea seems to have some advantage over it when compared to reducing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.