Green Tea Benefits You... Just not the Way You Think
Green Tea Benefits Health, Delays Aging, Promotes Fat Loss, But Not as an Antioxidant, Says New Research
Hold onto your hats, as new research is changing the way we look at green tea and how it benefits health, including improving longevity and promoting fat loss. The famous polyphenols found in green tea, may not be antioxidants after all, according to a fascinating new study in the peer-reviewed journal, Aging. Green tea remarkably improved life span and even reduced fat content in the study, but it didn’t happen because the polyphenols acted like antioxidants. Instead, researchers found green tea polyphenols worked more like a vaccine, prompting the body to turn on its natural defenses. Here’s what they found and how it may impact your health, body fat, and how well you age.
What is in Green Tea Leaves that is Good for You?
- Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
- Epicatechin gallate (ECG)
What Antioxidants are in Green Tea?
Green tea leaves contain many catechins, (also known as polyphenols) that have long been touted as impressive antioxidants. The most famous of which include epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and epicatechin gallate (ECG). However, they may not actually be antioxidants, suggests a recent report by scientists.
Green Tea Polyphenols May Not be Antioxidants
The famous green tea polyphenols EGCG and ECG may not actually be antioxidants, but instead, they are actually pro-oxidants. What does this mean? Green tea polyphenols don’t directly attack oxidative stress, but instead, help a cell improve its ability to defend itself.
How Does Green Tea Promote Health?
Casting doubt on previous assumptions about how compounds in green tea promote health, this new study found ECG and EGCG increase oxidative stress in the short term. (Spoiler Alert: This effect of green tea ends up promoting health.) Green tea polyphenols’ brief stimulus awakens the cell’s natural defense systems. Cells can create impressive anti-oxidative stress responses if triggered. This beneficial effect is sort of similar to how a vaccine prompts the body to kick its own natural abilities in gear to help protect itself. Although in the case of green tea, it is not triggering a response from the immune system like a vaccine. The pro-oxidants in green tea get the genes in a cell to make enzymes that attack free radicals. These enzymes called superoxide dismutase and catalase, help a cell protect itself from oxidative stress that leads to damage and aging. Of note, oxidative stress naturally forms in your cells all day long: the energy-producing batteries of your cells, called mitochondria, create oxidative stress.
Green Tea Delays Aging and Improves Fat Loss
What’s truly amazing is what happened over time in the study! Researchers were watching the effects of the polyphenols in green tea on tiny nematodes in the laboratory and noticed they experienced remarkably longer lives! As well, the green tea resulted in greater fitness (lower fat content).
3 Best Ways Researchers Say You Can Promote Longevity
- Drink green tea
- Partake in sports
- Don’t overeat
How to Promote Longevity Naturally
Many healthy lifestyle habits promote longevity similar to how green tea polyphenols encourage the body’s cells to create enzymes that help protect itself. A similar effect has been seen when adults participate in sports: exercise promotes health in the long run, despite creating oxidative stress in the short term. Exercising helps trigger many body responses that promote longevity. Interestingly, consuming fewer calories may help promote longevity too. Over-consuming food leads to morbidities, including insulin resistance and accumulation of belly fat. Lower calorie consumption has been seen in studies to promote longevity in flies, nematodes, and non-human primates. A few human studies have looked at the health benefits of Ramadan fasting. Intermittent fasting has also become a new area of interest for the promotion of longevity, weight management, and fat loss.
The Best Way to Consume Green Tea Polyphenols
With the catechins, EGCG, and ECG being the stars of this health-promoting, anti-aging story, one might assume taking a green tea extract is the best idea; however, in an article, the researchers recommend drinking green tea daily. The concern is that supplements could contain high doses of catechins which can pose a problem for the energy-making battery packs inside cells (mitochondria), including potential to cause cell death.
Is Black or Green Tea Better for Aging?
As for which type of tea to drink, the fermentation process used to turn green tea leaves into dried black tea destroys catechins, thus explaining why green tea is preferable to black tea. When researchers looked at how 1128 Greek adults (>50 years) aged, they noted that consumption of black tea led to poorer aging, while drinking green tea was positively associated with successful aging. The adults who drank green tea were less likely to have hypertension (high blood pressure) and had higher levels of physical activity than those who drank black tea.
As for which green tea to drink, fresh green tea leaves have been found in a laboratory analysis to contain 5x more EGCG than a cup of conventional dried green tea. Better yet, eating fresh tea leaves could offer up to 15x more EGCG than that cup of conventional dried green tea. Fresh tea leaves are delicious in many recipes, including smoothies and are easily incorporated into soups, stews, salad dressings, and salsas.
Green tea catechins EGCG and ECG enhance the fitness and lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans by complex I inhibition. Aging 2021 July;13(19):22629.
The association between green and black tea consumption on successful aging: a combined analysis of the ATTICA and MEDiterranean ISIands (MEDIS) epidemiological studies. Molecules 2019 May; 24(10):1862.
Mechanisms of lifespan regulation by calorie restriction and intermittent fasting in model organisms. Nutrients 2020 Apr; 12(4): 1194.