For thousands of years, people in the lands of the Far East have acquired secret superpowers. Some say that they are able to fight dreadful ailments; diseases such as cancer are no big deal to the inhabitants. Their power lies simply in a drink they consume. How many beverages can you think of that have magical properties that fight off cancer? I can think of only one. That magical drink from the high heavens is matcha green tea. No. I’m not talking about that sugary, teeth-rotting drink from Lipton. I’m talking about the good ‘ole, freshly brewed tea straight out of ancient China. Legend says, this drink has anti-”everything evil” properties. It’s no wonder the Chinese have been drinking matcha green tea for thousands of years.
In Matcha, We Trust
It seems too good to be true that so many life saving advantages could be contained in matcha tea. I’m sure that there’s much skepticism in your head about what I’m preaching.
For instance, Julie Edgar, a journalist who specializes in health reports, from WebMD states that, “still, real-world evidence is lacking,” about the health benefits of matcha tea, but she gives hope by saying, “consistent findings about matcha tea’s health benefits have come out of the lab,” (Edgar). Edgar’s article was reviewed by Jonathan L Gelfand, MD, a graduate from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, to confirm the truthfulness of Edgar’s statements.
Scientifically, there are studies that point to matcha tea being able to fight off many diseases. The question of real-world evidence will be answered in time. Until then, you could get ahead of the game by drinking matcha tea so that when the health benefits are conclusive, you can be there to say, “I told you so.”
It Goes Way Back…
Matcha tea is an ancient concoction. To make it, dried out green tea leaves are finely ground into a powder that infuses into hot water. The green tea plant that’s used is called Camellia senensis Theaceae (Isemura et al). Fortunately, you won’t need to remember that for the SATs.
The authors of “A Boon for Periodontal and General Health”, who are professionals in the health field, state, “Camellia sinensis is shrub-like and is grown in a semi tropical environment on plantations in Southeast Asia. Heavy rainfall at 3000- 7000 ft elevation is required. It is cloned or grown from seed from cuttings obtained from the mother bush and rooted and grown in a nursery for 1 or 2 years. Green tea is grown in rows or on terraces,”.
The Chinese believe that the green tea was discovered in 3000 BC after the Chinese emperor, Shen-Nung, accidentally dropped a wild bush into a pot of boiling water.
Conversely, India grants the discovery of green tea to the Buddhist monk, Siddhartha, in the 6th century. Inspired by divine intervention, Siddhartha picked up leaves from a nearby bush and began to chew on them. He realized that the leaves gave him a “great sense of alertness and well-being,”.
In both instances, the bush happened to be Camellia sinensis (green tea leaves). Through many years of receiving attention for its beneficial health effects, matcha green tea has become one of the most popular beverages in the Eastern world (Agarwal et al).
Stay Healthy, My Friends
Whether people like the taste, there is no question that green tea has a multitude of health-benefits. Matcha tea has been known to have the potential of lowering cholesterol, burning fat, and preventing strokes and heart disease. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects. Sources have even said it has the potential of getting rid of cancer! The list of benefits go on and on. The truth of matcha tea’s health benefits are found in compounds called anti-oxidants (Edgar).
What’s An Antioxidant?
Antioxidants help us get rid of the junk in our bodies. You may not realize it, but for every second you read this paper, your body is creating waste in the form of damaged cells. Our cells are being damaged by oxidation. Apples turning brown, fish rotting, fruit making your house smell — all of these are caused by oxidation. Oxidation occurs when cells interact with oxygen. It happens everywhere in the world around us. When our bodies perform cellular functions, oxidation is happening at the same time. It is a very natural process that cannot be prevented.
Researcher Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, from Tufts University in Boston states, “While the body metabolizes oxygen very efficiently, 1% or 2% of cells will get damaged in the process and turn into free radicals,”. Now this percentage doesn’t seem like a lot, but when our bodies are doing cellular functions 24 hours a day, it begins to add up (Davis).
Free Radicals Attack
Damaged cells, called free radicals, are created when our molecular cells break apart. The unpaired molecule goes berserk searching for another molecule’s electron to pair up with. Healthy pairs of cells will then be attacked by free radicals because they provide available electrons. Along with oxidation, free radicals can be formed in our bodies from things in the environment. Things such as stress, lack of exercise, and lack of sleep can also be factors that cause cells to become damaged (Monavie).
Unfortunately, free radicals don’t just kill our cells. They actually change the cell’s DNA. This causes cells to grow abnormally out of control. Luckily, we are blessed with a natural defense system that produces antioxidants to keep the free radicals formed by cellular processes under control.
However, in today’s environment, full of pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, and herbicides, our bodies are going to need a lot more protection than what our natural defense can supply (Davis). This is where the intake of matcha tea is going to come to our aid.
So how exactly do the antioxidants in match tea help keep free radicals from completely annihilating our bodies? Antioxidants have the ability to donate their own electrons to the free radicals without themselves becoming free radicals. This prevents free radicals from tearing apart healthy cells because the antioxidants supply free radicals with the electrons that free radicals would have taken from healthy cells. Consequently, our cells are left unscathed by free radicals and in working condition (Monavie).
More About Antioxidants
Antioxidants can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables that we eat. Most of these healthy foods are tested on the ORAC scale. ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance capacity. The ORAC scale was developed by the National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health and it measures the effectiveness of antioxidants in foods.
According to the ORAC score, green tea leaves rank as having a score of 1,253 (“Tea, Green, Brewed”) Green tea ranks higher than many fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes with a score of 60, cherries with a score of 100, raspberries with a score of 210, and even broccoli with a score of 130 (Monavie).
Matcha tea’s vast amount of different antioxidants is the reason why it has a score that totals to more than four times the amount of raspberries. The antioxidants that matcha tea contains are called catechins, along with others like vitamin C and E. There are four different types of catechins, derived from polyphenols, present in matcha green tea, but the most important one to remember is epigallocatechin-3-gallete, or better known as EGCG.
According to Julie Edgar, “Because of green tea’s minimal processing- its leaves are withered and steamed, not fermented like black and oolong teas- green tea’s unique catechins, especially EGCG, are more concentrated,”. EGCG is more significant than the other three catechins due to it being the most active and abundant catechin. Matcha tea is healthier than black and oolong teas because of its higher concentration of EGCG. Along with antioxidants, matcha green tea is maxed-out with many other healthy things such as carotenoids, tocopherols, polyphenols, flavenoids and minerals like chromium, magnesium, selenium, and zinc (Agarwal et al).
Catechins Are Cool Too
Because of the many antioxidants and active ingredients of matcha tea working together, people that drink matcha tea can gain many benefits. One benefit is weight loss.
An in-depth study was conducted in Tokyo, Japan at a health care research facility in 2005 that proved this, “A 12- week study was performed including two groups of Japanese men with similar body mass index and waist circumference,”. One group ingested tea containing 690 mg catechins while the second group received only 22 mg catechins. The average weight loss in group 1 was 2.4 kg, whereas in the second group it was only 1.3 kg,”. Both groups of men received similar diets. The catechin EGCG causes a rise in the body’s metabolism. This causes your cellular processes to function and use up energy faster which results in a faster break down of fats (Agarwal et al).
Just imagine the possibility of almost doubling the amount of weight loss by incorporating matcha tea into your diet.
Another potential benefit of matcha tea is the anti-aging effects on the skin. Free radicals have the capabilities of destroying healthy skin cells. Fortunately, matcha tea’s antioxidant properties are able to protect the skin from harmful effects of free radicals that cause wrinkling and skin aging. At last, people will have a chance to have more youthful, beautiful skin for years to come (Agarwal et al).
Consuming matcha tea gives you the potential to directly kill off bacteria and viruses because of the powerful catechin antioxidant, EGCG. EGCG is highly anti-inflammatory as well. This can help fend off bacteria, viruses, and inflammation that may potentially cause the flu and cold. The chances of catching the cold or flu can be dramatically decreased with consumption of matcha tea (Agarwal et al).
Moreover, even the chances of being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease are greatly reduced after drinking matcha tea. Matcha tea has been shown to lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol and fight obesity, two risk factors for heart disease and diabetes (Edgar).
The authors of “A Boon for Periodontal and General Health” agree with the benefits of drinking matcha green tea and surmise that, “(Matcha) Green tea prevents heart disease and stroke by lowering the levels of cholesterol. Even after a heart attack, it prevents cell deaths and speeds up the recovery of heart cells. Drinking (matcha) green tea helps keep our blood pressure down,”.
Unfortunately, the specific mechanism of matcha tea that lowers cholesterol is unknown, but matcha tea has shown to increase LDL receptors in the liver and prevent absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. Having reduced levels of cholesterol minimizes the chance of blood clots to form in the arteries that could lead to stroke or heart disease. Blood pressure will be decrease because blood can smoothly travel through the arteries.
Also, matcha tea may be able to increase the healing process of your heart after a heart attack. This will prevent any heart attacks that could occur during the battle to become healthy again.
Matcha tea has also been shown to play a part in fighting and preventing cancer. Experiments have shown that the antioxidant EGCG has been able to inhibit tumor cells from becoming cancerous. It has the ability to do this by increasing the production of normal cells while also increasing the death of tumor cells at the same time. EGCG is also able to prevent the blood flow to the tumor cells that could become cancerous (Agarwal et al).
In a study conducted by Tak-Hang Chan, PhD, they proved that they could successfully shrink prostate cancer tumors in mice with the use of a synthetic form of ECGC. However, there hasn’t been total confirmation of the same success in humans. McCullough from the American Cancer Society states, “one of the challenges is finding populations that drink enough green tea and have for a long time,” (Edgar).
With this said, it still seems to be a miracle that we’ve at least found conclusive proof of preventing cancer in mice. So It might just be around the corner that we find evidence for humans as well.
It’s not like we haven’t had any success at all with the consumption of matcha tea preventing cancer in humans.
In fact, there have been studies that show that drinking two cups of matcha tea a day has inhibited cancer growth in humans. One experiment was done in Japan with about 500 Japanese women with stage 1 and stage 2 breast cancer. They were able to find proof that an increase in matcha tea consumption before and after surgery resulted in a lower recurrence of cancer. There have been more studies done in China that have showed that the more matcha tea people drank, the less of a risk there would be for developing stomach cancer, esophogal cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer (Edgar).
The list of benefits doesn’t stop here. Matcha tea has also been shown to reduce severity of asthma by relaxing the muscles of the bronchial tubes. People’s stress levels and anxiety have also been seen to decrease from an amino acid, L-theanine, that’s in green tea. Even toxins and bacteria that cause food poisoning are found to be killed by catechins in matcha tea.
Another more interesting idea that’s currently being studied is matcha tea’s effect on the brain (Agarwal et al). Matcha green tea has shown evidence of making you smarter! Many polyphenols in matcha tea are able to directly access the brain and protect neurons from free radicals that produce toxins and destroy cells. The polyphenols increase the production of new brain cells while also being able to slow aging of the brain.
According to a report from Mind, “Mood, and Memory”, “A 2011 study of 91 older adults with mild memory impairment found that participants who took daily supplements of green tea extract combined with L-theanine for four months experienced enhanced memory and mental alertness,”. L-theanine is an amino acid found in matcha tea. It has been scientifically proven to improve brain wave activity, decrease stress, and increase focus. People are much more able to learn when they are less distracted (“Green Tea May help conserve Cognition, Cup by Cup”).
Matcha Tea is Magical
Honestly, with the seemingly never-ending number of benefits, it must be apparent now that matcha tea does have the capability of bettering your health in many ways. Maybe matcha tea could be that elixir that solves all of our health problems. Even if you don’t have faith in all of these benefits, I’m sure that there’s at least one that’s sticking with you. Maybe this beverage could unlock the hidden potential of your brain and bring it into a new level of learning. It’s safe to say that there’s enough evidence to support that matcha tea is healthy for you. Before the day comes that we know all its benefits for certain, you could get a head start and start sipping matcha tea ASAP.
Agarwal, Gunjan, et al. “Green Tea: A Boon for Periodontal and General Health.” Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology 16.2 (2012): n. pag. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.
Davis, Jeanie Lerche. “How Antioxidants Work.” Ed. Charlotte Grayson Mathis. WebMD. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/how-antioxidants-work1>.
Edgar, Julie. “Health Benefits of Green Tea.” Ed. Jonathan L. Gelfand. WebMD. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/health-benefits-of-green-tea>.
“Green Tea May Help Conserve Cognition, Cup by Cup.” Mind, Mood & Memory 8.6 (2012): 1–4. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.
Isemura, Mamoru, Noriyuki Miyoshi, and Yasuo Suzuki. “Health-Promoting Effects of Green Tea.” Japan Academy Proceedings Series B; Physical and Biological Sciences 88B.3 (2012): n. pag. Academic OneFile. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.
Monavie, Succeed. How Antioxidants Work. Youtube. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG3OOXIXvxw>.
“Tea, Green, Brewed.” ORACValues. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2012. <http://www.oracvalues.com/tea-green-brewed>.