Written for Reflux1 by Allison Walker-Elders
Ask anyone to list the health benefits of green tea, and she’ll be able to rattle off quite a few: weight loss, clear skin, and possibly even prevention of cancer. But can this catechin-filled drink combat acid reflux?
Green tea, like black tea and white tea, is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, or the Chinese tea plant. Soon after harvesting leaves and leaf buds, the crop is prepared by steam or by drying in hot pans. These tea leaves can now be steeped in hot water to prepare a perfect cup of green tea. By drying the leaves rapidly, the leaves are not allowed to oxidize. This retains the healthful catechins and polyphenols for which green tea is renown.
One of the most potent chemicals found in green tea is epigallocatechin 3-gallate (ECGC). This catechin is thought to be the driving force behind green tea’s healing power. In human body cells, it binds to a protein called Bcl-xl, rendering it inactive. This protein is anti-apoptotic, meaning it causes an abnormal longevity in cells. When cell death does not occur, cancerous tumors form. ECGC may prevent tumors by restoring normality to the cell life cycle.
Possible Benefits of Green Tea
- Healthy immune system
- Clearer skin
- Weight loss
- Prevention of cardiovascular disease
- Better cholesterol
ECGC has been found to treat brain, prostate, and cervical cancers. It may also prevent esophageal cancer. A six-year study in China suggested that green tea can lower risk of esophageal cancer in high-risk patients, former and current smokers and drinkers. A relationship between temperatures at which the tea was drunk (70 degrees C and 80 degrees C) showed an elevated risk with tea closer to boiling. Another study found no positive correlation between gastric cancer prevention and green tea consumption. However, a review of studies found that the ideal daily dose of ECGC consumed for cancer prevention is 250 mg, or three to five cups of green tea.
But what about acid reflux? In Japan, GERD is a growing health concern. A study of Japanese patients showed elevated acid reflux symptoms in response to a number of lifestyle changes. Interestingly, green tea consumption was associated with GERD. These results contradict the advice of many a green tea enthusiast. Many lifetime drinkers of the tea tout it as an excellent digestive aid, and recommend it for those suffering from acid reflux. However, scientific evidence suggests otherwise.
The review of green tea studies mentioned above maintains a realistic perspective on the matter. As the writer of the article stated, “If not exceeding the daily recommended allowance, those who enjoy a cup of green tea should continue its consumption. Drinking green tea appears to be safe at moderate, regular and habitual use.” Whether you’re a tea believer or not, drinking tea at a reasonable temperature appears to do more help than harm. But if you enjoy a cup of green tea, take it with a grain of salt: it probably won’t prevent all woes.
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Photo: Kanko Kazuyo