Tea is the second most widely consumed drink in the world, with only water beating it for the number-one spot. Green tea happens to be one of the most popular varieties of tea, largely for its clean, refreshing taste. However, a large number of people are also turning to green tea as more evidence of its health benefits appears in studies and research.
Perhaps what green tea is most known for is its high concentration of antioxidants. This is a result of the way in which green tea is formulated. Green tea is actually made from unfermented leaves, which are the type that contain the highest concentration of a type of antioxidant called polyphenols. As the following paragraph describes, these antioxidants can provide a variety of great health benefits for those who consume green tea.
Antioxidants are substances that help the body fight off damaging compounds in the body called free radicals. By getting rid of these compounds, antioxidants protect the body’s cells and DNA by reducing or preventing the damage that the free radicals can inflict. In addition, the antioxidants are also believed to help slow the aging process.
(For information on other sources of antioxidants, see 10 Antioxidant-Rich Foods To Protect Your Body.)
Many researchers have investigated the links between green tea and heart health. What they’ve found is significant, but the link isn’t totally clear. For example, studies have shown that drinking green tea reduces the risk of heart attack and may help to prevent atherosclerosis. In fact, the studies show that the rate of heart attack decreases by about 11 percent for those who drink three cups of green tea per day.
In addition, green tea also contributes to better heart health by helping to lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In fact, green tea doesn’t just lower total cholesterol levels – it actually can help the level of HDL or “good” cholesterol in the body. Though more studies are being conducted, it appears that the polyphenols present in green tea may help block cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestines and get rid of excess cholesterol.
Unfortunately, the FDA has not endorsed these findings just yet, partially because the link between green tea and heart health is still blurry. Some researchers believe that the high concentration of antioxidants is responsible (at least partially) for the ways in which green tea helps to prevent atherosclerosis and reduce the risk of heart attack.
Cancer Risk Reduction
Green tea has been thought to help protect against several types of cancer. Many studies on the matter have been prompted by the fact that researchers noticed significantly lower cancer rates in countries where green tea is regularly consumed, such as Japan.
Some specific studies have shown various findings regarding green tea’s link to reduced cancer rates. For example, women who drank at least a cup of green tea a day lived longer with ovarian cancer than those who didn’t. Meanwhile, those who drink green tea were found to have a smaller chance of developing pancreatic cancer (particularly women, whose risk was cut in half by drinking green tea).
These studies continue to show promise when it comes to linking green tea to a reduced risk of cancer, but there is still more research needed to confirm this link. Again, antioxidants (which help fight off potentially dangerous free radicals) are thought to play a role in this association.
Other Health Benefits
Research has also been conducted which links green tea to the following health benefits:
- Diabetes: Green tea may help control blood sugar levels and can help prevent or slow the development of type 1 diabetes.
- Weight loss: Some studies suggest that green tea could help boost metabolism rates. This is usually attributed to catechins, a substance in green tea which may help to burn fat faster.
- Dental health: Though more research is needed, one study suggests that drinking green tea may help prevent dental cavities from forming.
- Inflammation: Several studies have linked green tea to reduced inflammation. For example, green tea can help those with arthritis by reducing inflammation and slowing the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. Green tea may also help reduce the amount of inflammation caused by gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel disease and ulcerative colitis.
Although some of the health benefits of green tea require more research and studies before they can be positively linked, there is no doubt that green tea is a healthy beverage option besides water. It definitely provides your body with a good dose of antioxidants, which is always good for your overall health, and regular consumption has been linked to good heart health and a reduced risk for many types of cancers. If you’re thinking about drinking green tea to help improve your health or to treat certain conditions, make sure to talk to your doctor about adding this to your daily health regimen.