Refreshing and invigorating, green tea is an amazingly healthy drink that’s been linked to lower risk for at least nine types of cancer, according to an explosion of recent research. Studies in Asia, where green tea is popular, show that people who drink it regularly have lower rates of bladder, colon, ovary, stomach, breast, pancreatic, lung, prostate, and esophageal cancer.
Used as a beverage and medicine for at least 3,000 years, green tea slows down growth of tumor cells in the lab—and could also help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, British researchers reported. Drinking green tea also combats cavities and gum disease. As an added bonus, it has fat-burning properties that improve weight loss, particularly of belly fat.
Here’s a look at green tea’s cancer-fighting powers, plus a tasty recipe for a sparkling cranberry-green tea beverage to keep you healthy.
Both green and black teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but green tea is healthier because it’s less processed. Tea contains potent disease-fighting antioxidants (which neutralize health-harming free radicals to protect cells from DNA damage), including catechins.
Not only is tea the best dietary source of catechins, but green tea contains about three times more than does black tea, reports the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
Recently, there has been a surge of studies looking at the anti-cancer potential of polyphenol catechins in green tea, particularly one called epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC).
Green tea polyphenols, especially ECGC, have been shown to thwart tumor cell growth in lab and animal studies, reports the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Tea catechins have also demonstrated other anti-cancer properties, according the NCI, including:
A number of studies have linked green tea consumption to lower risk for cancers of the colon, breast, ovaries, and prostate, while others had mixed results. A 2010 study in Taiwan involving more than 500 participants found that risk of lung cancer was five times higher in people who didn’t drink green tea. Among smokers, non-green tea drinkers had nearly 13 times higher risk than those who quaffed one or more cup daily.
Another study reported that Asian-American women who drink green tea have lower risk for breast, stomach, or colon cancer than non-drinkers. An earlier study also found that drinking green tea lowered esophageal cancer risk in Chinese men and women by nearly 60 percent.
A 2010 MD Anderson Cancer Center study analyzed the effects of green tea extract on people with a precancerous condition called oral leukoplakia, finding less progression to cancer in more than 50 percent of the people who took the extract, compared to those given a placebo. Two earlier clinical trials of green tea extract for this disorder had mixed results, with one finding that 38 percent of people with pre-cancerous oral lesions showed improvement, while the other didn’t find any benefit.
Brewed tea (made from tea bags or loose tea) has more cancer-fighting catechins than ready-to-drink green tea products sold in grocery stores. It’s not yet known what’s the optimal amount to drink, but in Asian countries people typically consume about three cups a day.
There are also green tea dietary supplements, but their labels can be inaccurate, with a 2011 analysis by USDA scientists of 20 commonly sold supplements finding wide chemical variance, with some containing additives not listed on the label. In many others, disease-fighting compounds—including catechins—had degraded during manufacturing and storage, while one product didn’t contain any green tea. (The study didn’t report brand names.) “
The claim that a green tea dietary supplement is a good alternative for tea leaves is questionable from a chemical composition point of view,” report the study authors.
Get cool and healthy with this refreshing green tea drink, a recipe created by AICR. Like green tea, cranberries contains antioxidants shown to have cancer-fighting properties in lab studies, so this tasty fruit-flavored drink beverage packs a double health punch.
3 cups water
2 green tea bags
2 mint tea bags
1/2 cup frozen concentrated 100% juice cranberry blend
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup chilled club soda
1 whole lime, sliced into wedges
Bring 3 cups of water just to the boil. Brew green tea and mint tea for 2-3 minutes, then refrigerate. When tea is chilled, mix well with frozen concentrated juices and lime juice. Before serving, add club soda, pour into glasses and add ice as desired. Garnish with lime wedges and fresh mint.
Also try freezing the liquid, plus chopped mint leaves, in popsicle molds for frosty refreshment on a scorching summer day.
Makes 6 servings: 70 calories and 18 g. carbohydrates per 6-ounce serving.
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