Green Tea Supplements Vs Drinking
Pros and Cons

What are the advantages and disadvantages of green tea extract supplements compared to drinking a tea beverage? While swallowing tea tablets is fast and convenient, there are pitfalls to watch out for.



A reader recently wrote to me with a question about green tea supplement:

"Julian, do you happen to know of any green tea supplement that is free of fluoride and other contaminants such as lead?"

Here is my reply to him:

"My friend, I am a big fan of herbal supplement and consider them to be an important part of a healthy lifestyle in the modern world."

"If everything works out correct, they can be very good for you. There could be many advantages, such as

  • Convenience to consume

  • High potency

  • High purity with little contaminants."

"In the past, I have taken herbal tablets such as ginseng, tongkat ali and theanine."

"However, the problem is - although these tablets are good, they are weak compared to the actual real thing."

"When I managed to get hold of real ginseng, the real tongkat ali and the real tippy green tea buds, and I infuse the herbs and drink them, I can tell straightaway that having the real thing make me feel much better and work out more economically over the long run.

I will go through the pros and cons for green tea supplements versus drinking the tea beverage below.

1. Convenience

This will differ by individual as it depends on your lifestyle.

However, all things considered, it is easy to make a cup of tea. First you need to order a packet of quality tea online. Then just turn on the kettle and boil the water!

Furthermore, insteads of drinking soft drink or coffee, you have tea!

If you are out and about and find it inconvenient to boil hot water, you can try preparing the tea in advance and bringing a hot water flask with you!

2. Potency and Purity

Potency is the most commonly cited reason for taking supplements. You may have read advertisements like this:

"Scientific study has found that one needs to drink as many as 10 to 20 cups of tea a day to benefit from it."

"While it is impractical to drink that many cups of tea a day, green tea capsules offer an attractive alternative. They contain concentrated extract found in many cups of tea."

Hmm... sounds convincing, doesn't it? There are a couple of problems with this line of reasoning:

  • High quality tea beverage such as spring harvested tea buds are highly potent. You only need to drink up to three grams a day and a few times a week to benefit from it. These three grams can be infused three times to make three cups of tea.

  • Many population studies on the benefits of green tea were conducted in Asia, where people typically drink three cups of green tea a day. There has been no scientific studies done on the long term benefits of consuming green tea supplement.

One thing you have to remember about any green tea product is that they are made from leaves that are highly exposed to the environment. They are not roots buried deep under the ground. Its quality depends critically on where the tea plants are grown and when they are harvested.

High quality tea buds are harvested in the high mountain above 500 meters, away from road traffic pollution (therefore avoiding lead contamination).

Green tea, being leaves, are highly exposed to insects. Being harvested early spring means there are few insects, eliminating the need to use pesticides.

In addition, these tea farm only harvests once a year, from March to May. It is not intensive farmed so there is no need to use synthetic fertilizer. The tea buds sold for a high price in China and there is no need for intensive farming (which destroys the quality of the tea buds as well).

Tea buds are sprouts that grow on top of tea bush. They are too young to accumulate contaminants from the environment and contain little fluoride.

All these high quality green tea are sold in tea shops. They fetch a high wholesale price as they look, taste good and after drinking them, make you feel good. You can learn the judge the quality of the tea yourself.

Green tea supplements, on the other hand, is a much more opaque product, as you can't see the raw ingredients. They are made using low quality tea plants i.e. in low altitude, harvested throughout the year and made using mature leaves, rather than tender tea buds.

They can be exposed to road pollution, fluoride and pesticides. They rely on chemical processes to ensure their potency and purity. When buying one, you need to go with reputable manufacturers. You need to guard against the the dangers of overdosing.

2. Overstated Potency

Tea supplements are often less potent than what the manufacturers claim.

Companies often face a hard choice between cost and quality. Standard extract processes use chemical solvents that usually end up destroying a high proportion of tea's antioxidants.

A 2006 study conducted by the University of California tested 19 commonly available green tea dietary supplement products for their catechin content. They concluded:

However, label claims on GTDS may not correlate with actual phytochemical content or antioxidant capacity nor provide information about the presence and levels of caffeine.

In the current study, 19 commonly available [green tea dietary supplements] were evaluated for catechin and caffeine content and for antioxidative activity.

Product labels varied in the information provided and were inconsistent with actual phytochemical contents.

In a separate study, the same team of researchers found that catechin content ranged from 9% to 48% of label claims and all of the products tested were below 100% of label claims.

3. Overdose

A real danger. Consumers are more likely to overdose on supplements than a beverage. When combined with low quality products that may have been contaminated, the results can be harmful.

Tea supplements have been found to kill dogs at high doses. They have also been associated with liver and kidney damage. For further information, read Green Tea Supplement Side Effects..

4. Lack of Synergy

Tea chemical composition is extremely complex. Tea contains up to 200 bioactive compounds. Studies have increasingly found that these chemicals act in a synergistic manner (i.e. the whole is greater than the sum of the parts).

Brewing tea is likely to be more beneficial than taking tablets that contain only one or two tea constituents.

Few, if any, tea extract products contain theanine, an important feel-good relaxant that melts away your worry and leaves you in near perfect bliss.

If you are trying to lose weight, don't forget caffeine! It may sound like a dirty word to some people, but studies have found that EGCG and caffeine synergizes to increase weight loss.

Learn why caffeine is good for you and you need not suffer from its side effects at

Tea Caffeine - Can It Be Good For You?

References

Navindra P. Seeram,Susanne M. Henning, Yantao Niu, Rupo Lee, H. Samuel Scheuller, and David Heber (2006). Catechin and Caffeine Content of Green Tea Dietary Supplements and Correlation with Antioxidant Capacity. J. Agric. Food Chem., 54 (5), 1599 -1603, 2006.

Manning J, Roberts JC (2003). Analysis of catechin content of commercial green tea products. J Herb Pharmacother 2003; 3:19-32.

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