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Green tea and apples may protect health in ways previously unknown

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Green tea, cocoa, apples could protect health in ways we didn't know

Green tea and apples are both known to be healthy additions to our diet. Now researchers understand more about how apples and tea can protect us from heart disease and cancer.


New evidence uncovered by researchers explains how polyphenols that are antioxidants such as those found in green tea and apples work to help us stave off cancer and avoid heart disease.

Dr Paul Kroon and his team from the Institute of Food Research discovered antioxidants in the fruit and drink have the ability to block a molecule implicated in heart disease. The molecule, known as VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) is also a target for cancer treatment.

What is VEGF?

VEGF is a protein molecule necessary to help blood vessels grow. It is important for development of babies in the womb and it also helps us recover when blood vessels are injured or damaged from disease.

When the protein is overly expressed diseases occur. Some types of cancer express VEGF, which helps tumors grow more blood vessels and spread to other parts of the body. Cancer therapies are designed to decrease VEGF levels to help stop cancer metastasis. .

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Apples and oranges stop signals that lead to illness

Researchers for the news study found EGCG - epigallocatechin gallate that is a polyphenol in green tea and procyanidin from apples halted a vital signalling function that stimulates VEGF expression in lab experiments using human cells.

"If this effect happens in the body as well, it provides very strong evidence for a mechanism that links dietary polyphenols and beneficial health effects," said Dr Paul Kroon who led the study.

Another benefit found from the antioxidants was activation of nitric oxide that dilates blood vessels to help keep arteries relaxed and healthier. Narrow blood vessels lead to high blood pressure and damage that can lead to plaque inside the artery walls.

The finding uncovers how apples, oranges and other foods such as cocoa, rich with antioxidants, could keep us healthy in ways that were not previously known. The study authors say the discovery uncovers a "plausible mechanism" of how bioactive compounds in food can promote health.

"Potent inhibition of VEGFR-2 activation by tight binding of green tea epigallocatechin gallate and apple procyanidins to VEGF: Relevance to angiogenesis."
Christina W. A. Moyle et al, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 59(3) 401-412
doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201400478