Tuesday, July 30, 2013

WTFitness - EGCG, that compound in Green Tea

EGCG - those four letters you hear in combination with green tea; it's supposed to be a miracle substance, right?

Oooh, molecules. Source

Epigallocatechin gallate is a potent antioxidant that is touted for it's anticarcinogenic properties. It has also been linked to weight loss, a boost in energy, lowered LDL (the bad cholesterol), and has been linked to lowered risk of heart disease.

Green tea Kit Kats! Not the best way to get the health benefits of green tea... but fun! Source
Sounds amazing, right? Should you take a green tea supplement? You could if you wanted. I think it's much more pleasant (and cost effective!) to just drink a cup or two of green tea than to pop a pill. But if that's what you're into, you should ALWAYS check with your doctor.

An example of what a green tea supplement might look like. I am in no way recommending you take one! Source
Full disclosure, I can't get the text for the article "Avoidance of bioflavonoid supplements during pregnancy: a pathway to infant leukemia?", but the title suggests that you might want to avoid green tea supplements and other bioflavonoid supplements while pregnant. I realize that the title is worded that way in an effort to be inflammatory and sensational, but I would so not take that chance.

EGCG has also been shown to block certain drugs, including one that treats cancer. EGCG binds to the receptors of the drug in your system, rendering it useless against the disease it is fighting. Yet another reason to consult your doctor before starting a green tea supplement!

Another example of what a green tea supplement might look like. Source
So, now that I've terrified you about the supplement (sorry), how the heck does this EGCG stuff supposedly prevent cancer? Kind of in the same way that it can block drugs. The EGCG compound binds to a substance called urokinase. I know, another weird word.

Urokinase is in your bloodstream and in your extracellular matrices, the exoskeleton type structure that provides structure to the animal cell since it lacks the rigid cell wall found in plant cells. Research has shown that elevated expression levels of urokinase are related to tumor malignancy, and metastasis by extension. Metastasis means the cancer has spread, or metastasized.

So, when EGCG binds to urokinase, it blocks the expression. Less expression of urokinase means (theoretically), that cancer shouldn't be able to grow. Hurray!

Bonus points for a beautiful teapot like the one above! Source
Is it proven? No. Is it a good reason to enjoy some green tea throughout your day? Absolutely. Just watch out for that caffeine content. An 8 oz cup of green tea clocks in at about 24-40mg of caffeine. A normal 8 oz cup of brewed coffee (not espresso) has between 95-200mg of caffeine. That's a big difference, but I find that green tea has such a light taste that I drink it so much faster than I would coffee.
One of my favorite green teas

I'm a huge fan of drinking my green tea "black" or "green" as it were. (hah?) I've seen people put sugar in their green tea and I've had it with honey. Green tea and honey is a delicious combination, but it completely horrified the tea-purist who was introducing me to green tea... so watch out for that.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments! Do you drink green tea? What's your favorite? If you supplement, which one do you use and what have your experiences been with it?

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