Nutrition: How green tea provides health benefits

After each issue of Best Health magazine lands on the newsstands, I get to read through the ‘Your Best Advice’


After each issue of Best Health magazine lands on the newsstands, I get to read through the ‘Your Best Advice’ tips (in May, see page 18) that are submitted online by our readers. A regular suggestion sent in’along with get enough sleep, drink lots of water and go for a walk each day’is to drink green tea.

That green tea appears to have health benefits is nothing new. We’ve already blogged about how it can make antibiotics up to three times more effective in fighting resistant superbugs, and about its ability to help fight heart disease. Now scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) have added a new reason to share ‘drink green tea’ advice: One of its beneficial compounds can increase the number of ‘regulatory T cells’ in our body. These cells perform an important role in helping our immune system function and in suppressing autoimmune disease. Plus, this research may point to one of the underlying ways that green tea acts to provide health benefits.

According to a press release from OSU, many types of cells have different roles in our immune system, which must attack unwanted invaders without damaging normal cells. In autoimmune diseases’from simple allergies to juvenile diabetes or terminal conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease’this process goes awry and the body mistakenly attacks itself. Certain cells help to dampen or ‘turn off’ the immune system, including regulatory T cells.

This study involved experiments with a compound in green tea, called EGCG, believed to be responsible for much of its health benefits, and which has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. The researchers found it could cause a higher production of regulatory T cells, and thus potentially have significant clinical importance for the suppression of autoimmune diseases. The studies were done with mice, so more research is needed to determine the effect in humans.

Despite knowing about green tea’s multiple benefits, I must admit I’m not a green tea drinker myself (although I am fond of green tea ice cream). But these latest findings have increased my resolve to make great tea a regular part of my afternoon. And, here’s an usual way to add green tea to your diet: try our no-cook recipe for Matcha Green Tea Torte.

When do you most enjoy drinking green tea, and how or when do you like to serve it?