Green Tea and Heart Health
More Than 6 Cardiovascular Benefits

Green tea and heart studies have always been controversial and conflicting. But increasingly scientists are uncovering evidence of tea's real benefits.



For centuries green tea has been touted as a miracle beverage with wide ranging health benefits. Although by no means conclusive, scientific studies have increasingly shown that there are at least 5 different ways it may improve your heart health:

  • Expand your heart artery and improve blood flow

  • Reduce heart attack incidence

  • Reverse organ damage from heart attack and stroke

  • Keep your arteries clear and prevent the buildup of harmful plague

  • Reduce cholesterol and triglycerides levels

Not impressed yet? You will be. When you arrive at the end of this article, you will come to understand why even doctors are urging us to drink more green tea!

Green Tea and Heart Benefit #1:
Dilate Heart Arteries

A 2008 Greek study investigated the flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the heart artery after drinking green tea. 14 healthy adults participated. They drank either:

  • 6 grams of green tea (containing 125 milligrams of caffeine)

  • Caffeinated water (containing 125 milligrams of caffeine)

  • Hot water

The results showed that after 30 minutes, those who drank green tea experienced 3.7% dilation, whereas those who drank caffeine or water did not show significant change.

"We found very promptly [that] after drinking green tea, there was a protective effect on the endothelium," says Dr. Charalambos Vlachopoulos, a cardiologist and one of the authors of the green tea and heart study.

The scientists speculated this is because green tea works as an antioxidant and helps prevent inflammation in body tissue. This keeps your blood vessels flexible and relaxed, and improves their ability to withstand changes in blood pressure. Drinking green tea may also protect against the formation of blood clots, which are the primary cause of heart attacks.

Although green tea acts fast, its effect is cumulative and lasting. After two weeks, the researchers found that the subjects' blood vessels were more dilated than they had been at the beginning of the study.

"It's something that needs to be investigated, but we think that if someone takes green tea for one or two months, the beneficial effect will be even greater," says Vlachopoulos.

Green Tea and Heart Benefit #2:
Live Longer

One of the largest population study ever conducted, the Ohsaki National Health Insurance Cohort Study monitored 40, 530 Japanese adults aged between 40 to 79 years for 7 to 11 years (1995 to 2005).

All forty thousand participants were healthy adults without history of stroke, coronary heart disease or cancer.

"The most important finding is that green tea may prolong people's lives through reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease”, said Dr Shinichi Kuriyama, who led the research. He concluded:

Green tea consumption is associated with reduced mortality due to all causes and due to cardiovascular disease but not with reduced mortality due to cancer.

Therefore, drinking green tea may help you live longer by cutting your risk of dying from any causes, and especially from heart disease.

Green Tea and Longevity - Japanese Secret?

Green Tea and Heart Benefit #3:
Role of Catechins

One reason why the role of tea on heart health is still not being acknowledged by the American Heart Association and the FDA is because population studies have been throwing out inconsistent results.

In 2001, a team of researchers from Netherlands wanted to test whether or not tea antioxidants catechins are responsible for its heart protective effects.

Although catechins are found in the highest concentration in green tea, they are also found in other foods such as chocolate and apple. Perhaps it is the failure of past studies to properly allow for these other catechins sources which may explain the inconsistency?

806 men aged 65–84 were given catechins in doses 72 ± 47.8 milligrams, mainly from black tea, apples, and chocolate. It was found that a 7.5 milligrams increase of catechins intake from sources other than tea was associated with 20 percent reduction in ischemic heart disease.

There was no association between catechin intake and stroke incidence.

The researchers concluded that consuming catechins, whether from tea or other sources, may reduce the risk of ischemic heart disease but not from stroke.

Find out which are catechins rich food and beverage!

Green Tea and Heart Benefit #4:
Reduce Heart Attack

Consuming green tea may reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

A 2002 Dutch study analyzed the data collected from the Rotterdam study - a population-based study of men and women aged equal to or greater than 55 years.

4,807 adults with no history of heart problems were followed for 5 to 7 years. The researchers discovered that drinking 375 millilitres or more of tea daily may reduce your risk of having a heart attack by 43%. More significantly, it may cut your risk of dying from heart attack by a whopping 70%!

Other non tea flavonoids (such as quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin) have similar effects and may reduce fatality by 65%.

The researchers concluded that tea and flavonoids may help prevent occurrence of coronary heart disease.

Want more green tea and heart studies? Read Green Tea and Heart Attack.

Green Tea and Heart Benefit #5:
Aid Recovery

It is still early days, but there is emerging evidence that green tea compounds EGCG and GA may help reverse cells damage after the occurrence of heart attack or stroke.

A 2005 study conducted by the Institute of Child Health in the United Kingdom found that drinking green tea after a stroke may speed up the recovery process by blocking the action of a protein called Stat 1, which plays a part in inducing cell death.

Another 2007 study conducted by the University of California-San Francisco reported a similar benefit, but through a different mechanism.

Researchers found that green tea extract gallotannin (called GT) can protect against post-ischemic brain damage. It does so by inhibiting the action of PARG, an enzyme that kills brain cells by inhibiting cell repair.

Green Tea and Stroke

Green Tea and Heart Benefit #6:
Remove Atherosclerotic Plague

Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) is a predominant problem in the Western world. Our poor diets and sedentary lifestyles certainly contribute to the problem, but there is also a natural genetic tendency in some people to develop atherosclerosis.

As we grow older, our arteries naturally harden. Fats, cholesterols and blood platelets accumulate in the artery wall, forming a layer of atherosclerotic plaque. When they thicken and block the entire artery, a heart attack or stroke occurs.

It has been found that green tea may keep your artery passageways clear by:

  • Reducing LDL, the bad cholesterol, while leaving HDL, the good cholesterol alone. HDL is good cholesterol and has been found to remove atherosclerotic plaque.

  • Reducing blood level triglycerides, the chemical form fat that exists in our blood. Too many triglycerides in the blood can cause heart disease.

  • Reducing lipid peroxides, free radicals that can cause cellular damage to LDL cholesterols and other lipids or fats. They have been linked to heart disease.

  • Reducing fibrinogen, or a protein found in blood involved in the formation of blood clots.

Conclusion

These studies are just part of an ongoing attempt by scientists to discover the true potential of tea as a heart-healthy food.

The American Heart Association does not yet include the beverage in its dietary recommendations, but more studies may change that. Until we have unlocked the secrets of this miraculous beverage, keep drinking your tea to stay healthy!

References

Alexopoulos, Nikolaos; Vlachopoulos, Charalambos; Aznaouridis, Konstantinos; Baou, Katerina; Vasiliadou, Carmen; Pietri, Panagiota; Xaplanteris, Panagiotis; Stefanadi, Elli; Stefanadis, Christodoulos (2005). The acute effect of green tea consumption on endothelial function in healthy individuals. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation. 15(3):300-305, June 2008.

Shinichi Kuriyama, Taichi Shimazu, Kaori Ohmori, Nobutaka Kikuchi, Naoki Nakaya, Yoshikazu Nishino, Yoshitaka Tsubono, Ichiro Tsuji (2006). Green Tea Consumption and Mortality Due to Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, and All Causes in Japan. JAMA. 2006;296:1255-1265.

Ilja CW Arts, Peter CH Hollman, Edith JM Feskens, H Bas Bueno de Mesquita and Daan Kromhout (2001). Catechin intake might explain the inverse relation between tea consumption and ischemic heart disease: the Zutphen Elderly Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 74, No. 2, 227-232, August 2001.

Johanna M Geleijnse, Lenore J Launer, Deirdre AM van der Kuip, Albert Hofman and Jacqueline CM Witteman (2002). Inverse association of tea and flavonoid intakes with incident myocardial infarction: the Rotterdam Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 75, No. 5, 880-886, May 2002.

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