Worried about Cancer or Heart Disease? Drink Green Tea!

Published: Mar. 15, 2002 at 9:18 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 5, 2003 at 2:49 AM EST
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New findings published in General Dentistry, the peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, confirm that green tea may both prevent and combat oral cancer, a disease that kills nearly eight thousand people each year.

Researchers exposed oral cancer cells to the antioxidants in green tea, called catechins, and found that cells were not only prevented from reproducing, but were also killed. In a separate study, researchers at the Medical College of Georgia found that exposure to these catechins killed many other kinds of cancer cells as well.

Scientists do not fully understand how green tea combats cancer cells, but it's clear that catechins are the key to most of its cancer-fighting effects. Catechins, like other antioxidants, neutralize free radicals in the body, preventing them from causing cancerous growths. To combat existing tumors, green tea catechins inhibit the cancer cells' ability to grow, reproduce, and attack the body's healthy tissue. Green tea also combats breast and prostate cancer by interfering with the hormones that enhance their growth.

Research has shown that, in addition to preventing and attacking cancerous growths, long-term consumption of green tea may:

  • Lower excessively high levels of blood cholesterol
  • Combat heart disease
  • Protect against radiation damage to cells (including radiation from the sun's rays)
  • Prevent rheumatoid arthritis or reduce its severity
  • Keep insulin levels low to help control body weight and limit the growth of certain tumors for which insulin is a growth factor
  • Enhance the effectiveness of radiation therapy and chemotherapy for some forms of cancer

The medicinal use of green tea

To enjoy its preventive or therapeutic effects, a person must consume between four and seven cups of green tea a day for an extended period of time, although simply swishing with green tea can be just as effective in preventing and fighting oral cancer. While no adverse effects have been reported in association with the medicinal use of green tea, it's always a good idea to consult your physician before beginning any kind of self-treatment.

Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and patients with heart problems should not consume large amounts of green tea, because it does contain caffeine; one cup of green tea contains about one-fourth the amount of caffeine in a single cup of coffee. Unfortunately, most processes used to remove the caffeine from green tea also destroy a significant quantity of its most beneficial antioxidants.

A short guide to antioxidant lingo

antioxidants = substances that prevent or delay the deteriorating effects of free radicals

catechins = a more specific name for the kinds of antioxidants found in green tea

free radicals = highly reactive atoms or molecule fragments that seek to receive or release electrons in order to achieve a more stable configuration. This process can damage cells and make the body more vulnerable to degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease.

© 2002 CAESY Education Systems, Inc.