By Marcus Stout
For the last several years, there has been an abundance of research on the effects of green tea and its possible ability to prevent cancer. There has been a lot of focus on Asian culture, where the incidence of cancer is significantly lower that that of the Western world.
For centuries, the Chinese have used green tea for health. It is used not only to protect health and slow down the aging process, but also to treat illness. It appears that there is some very good science behind what Asians have been relying on for years.
Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. There are many different types of tea, but they all come from the same plant. The differences occur from the differences in how the tea is processed. Green tea is not fermented during processing, but black tea does go through a fermentation process.
Tea leaves naturally contain catechins, which belong to the flavan-3-ol class of flavonoids, which are anti-oxidants. EGCG is one of the catechins contained in tea, and is one of the most powerful anti-oxidants around.
Fermenting the tea leaves, converts the catechins to other compounds. These new compounds are not as healthy as the unaltered catechins in a tea leaf in its original state. For this reason, green tea has more healthy anti-oxidants and therefore more health benefits than black tea.
Each day, as we convert food to energy, we create free radicals in our body. These free radicals can damage our cells and our DNA if we don’t combat them. It is believed that unchecked free radicals contribute to the development of cancer. They also speed up the aging process and contribute to clogged arteries and other maladies that plague us as we get older.
Anti-oxidants are powerful free radical combatants, and are linked with preventing cancer, as well as with decreasing your risk of stroke and heart disease and with lowering your cholesterol. For this reason, drinking green tea is a simple and effective way to slow down the aging process and prevent disease.
But, recently there has been even more powerful news about the possible effects of green tea on cancer. Many studies have been conducted on mice that were already diagnosed with the disease. In some cases, the studies have shown that green tea can help kill cancer cells or slow down the progression of the disease.
One particular study of interest was conducted by the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Shizuoka in Japan. In this study, mice that were infected with carcinoma tumors were fed green tea along with a chemotherapy drug called doxorubicin. The doxorubicin had more than doubled the effectiveness in the mice that were also fed green tea than in the mice who received their doxorubicin treatments alone.
The tumors showed a higher concentration of the drug itself in the tumor tissue when the mice ingested green tea. As an interesting side note; normal tissue did not show a higher concentration of the drug as a result of the green tea – only the cancerous tissue.
This may be good news, too. Since chemotherapy is known to have many side effects and to sometimes damage normal tissue as it’s killing cancer cells, this is important. Because the concentration of the drug is not higher in normal cells, the drug’s side effects might not increase with the use of green tea as an adjunct to therapy.
These same results were found in patients who had ovarian sarcoma, too. This news is important because ovarian sarcoma is usually very resistant to doxorubicin. So, it appears that when used with green tea, doxorubicin may become an effective treatment for ovarian sarcoma.
In another study, adriamycin, another popular cancer drug was also found to be more effective at treating ovarian sarcoma when it was paired with green tea. Rats in this study that were not fed green tea were found to be unresponsive to the drug, but when the drug was administered along with green tea, the rats became very responsive to the treatment.
There’s a second component of these studies that may have a positive effect on cancer patients. During chemotherapy, patients are often advised not to drink coffee or tea, due to its caffeine. This can be difficult for patients who are used to these beverages, as it disrupts their daily routine. Allowing patients to consume green tea during treatment could provide a positive emotional boost to patients.
In addition to helping to keep a patient’s daily routine normal by allowing tea as a morning beverage, patients may feel a sense of control of their own destiny when they understand that drinking green tea can help improve the effectiveness of their cancer treatment. This ability to have a hand in their treatment can be a very powerful tool for cancer patients, since this insidious disease often makes people feel out of control of their own life.
Of course, as with many other early results, more research is needed. However, the news is very promising in the fight against cancer. We are likely only beginning to understand the many ways in which green tea can help preserve our health and prevent and fight disease. There is little doubt that we will find more uses for this healthy beverage and its components.