Tea is a great substitute for coffee in the morning if you want to cut back on caffeine. And one kind of tea not only helps you reduce your caffeine intake, but also can help you fight cancer.
Here’s what you need to know about the marvelous cancer-fighting benefits of green tea.
Green tea comes from the leaves of a tea plant called Camellia sinensis. It’s considered a true tea – along with white, black, and oolong teas. It might surprise you to know that each of these teas all come from the same plant and use the same leaves. The difference is in how they’re processed.
Green tea is the least processed out of all the teas, and researchers say that might be one reason why it has so many health benefits, like fighting cancer.
Green tea drinkers have lower rates of cancer
Epidemiological studies have analyzed the cancer risk of green tea drinkers.
One study followed 69,710 Chinese women for six years. Researchers found that women who drank large amounts of green tea regularly had lower rates of colon and rectal cancers.1
Another epidemiological study found that green tea consumption reduced the risk of breast cancer in a dose-dependent manner, meaning the more tea women drank the lower their breast cancer risk.2
Green tea not only helps prevent cancer, but it helps cancer survivors keep their cancer from returning. In a meta-analysis of studies on breast cancer survivors, drinking lots of green tea significantly reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence.3
So, what’s so powerful about a cup of green tea?
High concentration of antioxidants
Scientists believe the main driver of green tea’s health benefits is its chemical antioxidant composition of powerful polyphenols. The most well studied green tea polyphenols include catechins and flavonoids such as:
- Epigallocatechin (EGC)
- Epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG)
- Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)
Of the three, EGCG has the most research documenting its ability to fight cancer. For example, EGCG has powerful free-radical-scavenging properties.4
Free radicals are reactive compounds that wreak havoc on your body. They’re triggered by pollution, smoking, excessive alcohol, inactivity and fried or processed foods. Free radicals cause cancer, premature aging, inflammation, heart disease, and more. Think of them as your body rusting.
EGCG helps rescue your cells and protect their DNA from free radical damage, or oxidative stress.5 What’s more, studies show that it helps inhibit cancer cell growth and can induce apoptosis (cancer cell death).
Helps tumor suppressor gene p53
New research published last February revealed for the first time that EGCG can improve the activity of tumor suppressor gene p53.
Researchers have dubbed this natural anticancer protein the “guardian of the genome” because of its ability to repair damaged DNA and destroy cancer cells. When the p53 gene mutates, cancer can grow unchecked. In fact, studies show that mutations of p53 are present in over half of human cancers. So, the discovery that EGCG can boost p53 activity is big news.
In the study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers found that EGCG binds with p53 to prevent mutations. Specifically, EGCG protects one end of the p53 protein, called the N-terminal domain, from breaking down.6,7
Animal studies on green tea’s anticancer effects
Rats and mice have been the subjects of much of the research performed on green tea’s cancer-fighting benefits. These studies have revealed that green tea can:
- Stop bladder cancer from growing. In one study, 93 mice ate a diet enriched with green tea polyphenols or a placebo for 14 to 24 weeks. Researchers determined that the growth of bladder cancer tumors stopped in the green tea group.8
- Slow breast cancer growth. In this study, researchers found that green tea inhibited vascular endothelial growth factor, known as VEGF. VEGF makes cancer cells grow and reproduce. Green tea inhibited those growth factors, thereby slowing cancer proliferation.9
- Enter the bloodstream faster, prevent tumor growth. In a meta-analysis of 147 studies on 133 cancer-preventive effects of tea consumption, researchers found that green tea had better cancer preventive properties than black tea. Researchers theorized that green tea signals changes in molecular pathways, which prevents tumor cell reproduction.10 Green tea is also absorbed faster into the bloodstream than black tea.
Green tea’s many health benefits
In addition to helping your body fight off cancer, green tea can provide numerous other health benefits. Many studies document how it:
- Reduces brain fog.
- Inhibits bacteria and viruses.
- Aids weight loss by improving metabolism.
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- Helps heart health by relaxing blood vessels.
- Reduces bad cholesterol, boosts good cholesterol.
- Hinders brain deterioration linked to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Regulates blood pressure.
- Calms and reduces depression and anxiety.
- Reduces wrinkles and signs of aging.
- Reduces inflammation.
Perhaps most important though, green tea can help you live longer.
Studies show that green tea drinkers’ cells act “younger” than those of non-tea drinkers by about five years. In fact, in one study, green tea drinkers were 76 percent less likely to die during the six-year study period compared to non-tea drinkers.
But before you pour yourself a nice hot cup of green tea, make sure you’re drinking it properly.
Don’t make this mistake with green tea
The research shows that green tea’s health benefits depend largely on how it’s brewed.
More leaves mean higher concentrations of cancer-fighting, health-improving antioxidant polyphenols. In addition, hot green tea has more polyphenols than instant, iced, and decaffeinated green teas. But take care in your brewing process. If you brew the tea in water that’s too hot, it can damage the polyphenols so brew your tea at temperatures no higher than 180 F. This is different from black tea, which is brewed by pouring boiling water on the leaves.
You might also consider having a cup of tea without a meal. According to one study, green tea may have more health benefits when consumed on an empty stomach.11
Don’t like the taste of green tea? Not to worry, you can also take green tea or the extract EGCG as a supplement.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17548688 (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17183063 (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19437116 (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15585768 (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299230/ (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “Green tea compound aids p53, ‘guardian of the genome’ and tumor suppressor: Research offers new lead for cancer drug discovery.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2021.
- https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0171091 (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12163680 (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829848/ (Accessed March 2, 2021)
- https://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/11/12/4627 (Accessed March 2, 2021)