For those of you that don't know, green tea is maid from fresh leaves of the 'Camellia Sinensis' plant. They're not dried or fermented, just boiled as they are. This process is thought to leave some of the most important chemicals in the tea as they are and not damage them. What are these important chemicals? Polyphenols and other antioxidants.
Polyphenols are natural compounds but can also be manufactured. They come in many different forms including acids, flavonoids and lignans. They're used in a number of ways in the body, but most benefits appear to be their antioxidant properties.
Oxidative stress is something that occurs to us all as we live our lives. It's caused by by products of metabolism, exposure to chemicals and even light as we live our day to day lives. It basically causes damage to cells and their structures. It causes damage to DNA also and this all adds up to the death, or improper function of the cell. At any particular time it's not doing a huge amount of damage, but when added up over time it's thought to be one of the main contributors to ageing and disease. Doesn't sound great hey!
Antioxidants (including Polyphenols) work by eliminating the molecules that cause this oxidative damage. It's called oxidative damage as these chemicals all have oxygen contained within them. Antioxidants will 'find' these damaging molecules in your body and neutralise them, meaning they no longer cause damage. That's good news!
Now we know Polyphenols are antioxidants. We know antioxidants are useful to prevent oxidative damaged in our bodies. That's all good. What we don't know for certain is how dietary antioxidants impact on oxidative stress. I.e. how good green tea (and other antioxidant containing food / drink) is at preventing oxidative stress. There are many contradictory results in scientific studies and no definitive conclusion can be drawn. It's actually got to the stage now that some scientists have given up on antioxidant studies and actually focus more on preventing the formation of the damaging chemicals.
So, carry on drinking green tea if you like, but there's little scientific evidence to prove that it makes a difference. If you like it, if it makes you feel better then carry on. The only reasons to stop would be if you feel no different, if you don't like it, if it's too expensive or if you get side effects.
We hope that's been useful and it might be worth focusing on preventing the formation of those nasty chemicals, rather than trying to clean them up! See our blog tomorrow for more info on this.