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Digested green tea compounds could protect from Alzheimer's, cancer

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Green tea is now scientifically shown to have Alzheimer's and cancer protective properties.

In a first study, scientists found digested compounds in the brew protect cells from toxins that cause dementia and Alzheimer's disease as well as slowing cancer growth, that they weren't sure existed after the beverage was consumed and digested.

Scientists from Newcastle University used technology that simulates the human digestive system to find the anti-cancer and brain protective properties of digested green tea. In the lab, the researchers exposed cells to hydrogen peroxide and a protein known as beta-amyloid that plays a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Working in conjunction with Dr Gordon McDougall of the Plant Products and Food Quality Group at the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee, the researchers found digested green tea chemicals protected cells from being destroyed by the toxins.

Dr Ed Okello who led the study says, "What was really exciting about this study was that we found when green tea is digested by enzymes in the gut, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer's development than the undigested form of the tea."

He also says tumor cell growth was significantly slowed by digested green tea compounds, showing the anti-cancer properties of the popular beverage.

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The scientists say undigested, freshly brewed green tea is known to have beneficial compounds that could promote health, but they weren't sure if the chemicals remained active or were absorbed by the body after ingestion.

"It's one of the reasons why we have to be so careful when we make claims about the health benefits of various foods and supplements," explains Dr Okello.

The scientists were able to test the polyphenols in tea after they're broken down. Okello says, "The digested chemicals protected the cells, preventing the toxins from destroying the cells. We also saw them affecting the cancer cells, significantly slowing down their growth."

Okello warns that drinking green tea is not a panacea for thwarting cancer and Alzheimer's disease. He says, “There are obviously many factors which together have an influence on diseases such as cancer and dementia - a good diet, plenty of exercise and a healthy lifestyle are all important."

The researchers say the study scientifically proves green tea, traditionally used in Chinese Medicine, “could help prevent some of the some of the key diseases we face today."

The scientists plan to test consumption of green tea in healthy human subjects to see if the digested compounds have the same protective effects against Alzheimer’s disease and cancer found in the lab studies.

Phytochemical: doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2010.11.004