DRINKING a cup of green tea regularly could have major health benefits, according to research.
It has been found to not only cut levels of “bad” cholesterol, but it leaves “good” cholesterol unchanged.
Experts now say drinking more green tea could have a significant impact on health. Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid, mostly made by the liver from the high-fat foods we eat. Although vital for the normal functioning of the body, excessive levels of bad LDL – low-density lipoprotein – in the blood can clog arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
But good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it is either broken down or passed from the body as waste. Now the researchers say their findings may explain why green tea has already been linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Xin-Xin Zheng and colleagues from Peking Union Medical College in Beijing wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that the analysis “showed the administration of green tea beverages or extracts resulted in significant reductions in serum total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol concentrations, but no effect on HDL cholesterol was observed”.
The researchers analysed the results of 14 random trials in which participants drank green tea or took an extract of green tea for periods ranging from three weeks to three months, or were assigned to a placebo group.
On average, green tea was shown to reduce total cholesterol by 7.2 milligrams per decilitre compared with levels seen in those taking the placebo. LDL cholesterol fell by an average of 2.2 mg/dl, or slightly less than 2 per cent.
The cholesterol-lowering effects of green tea may be due to catechins, which decrease the absorption of cholesterol, the researchers said. But this reduction is fairly small, warned Nathan Wong, who runs the heart disease prevention programme at the University of California. He also said green tea “should not be recommended in place of well-proven cholesterol-lowering medicines”.
There has been concern over possible side-effects from heavy consumption of green tea or green tea extracts following a few dozen reports of liver damage. But Mr Wong said smaller amounts “could be a useful component of a heart-healthy diet”.
Victoria Taylor, a senior dietician at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This review of previous studies suggests green tea could have a positive effect on reducing our total cholesterol level, as well as the ‘bad’ LDL element. But we need to make sure there are no long-term side-effects on our overall health.”