antiinflammatory

  • 5 Supplements to Consider

    Taking Supplementation Seriously Part IV

    In past articles, we presented the case for insuring nutritional sufficiency of the essential vitamins and minerals through supplementation. There is little debate that these micronutrients are requisite for human survival, and that their supplementation may be an apt course for some. A healthy diet also provides several other nutritionally-beneficial elements which, like the vitamins and minerals, are not always present at optimal levels and thus can potentially benefit from supplementation.

    Here is a list of five dietary supplements that are worth considering as additions to the multivitamin. They are not meant to represent the "best" or "most useful" of the supplement field (which has little meaning given the individuality of metabolism); rather, these choices represent common dietary constituents that primarily function to broadly improve health and well-being (as opposed to addressing a single aspect of it). Each has a defined, critical role in normal human metabolism, and all but one are only obtainable through the diet.

    Omega-3 fatty acids and whey protein are sources of essential fatty and amino-acids, the two remaining classes of essential nutrients after the vitamins and minerals. Fiber supplements provide this oft-deficient dietary macronutrient, which along with probiotic bacteria are a major determinant in intestinal function and the maintenance of healthy gut microflora. Supplementing with the nutritionally non-essential Coenzyme Q10 can augment the levels of this general purpose fat-soluble antioxidant and critical component for cellular energy generation, which may be of particular significance for older consumers.

    Note that this list is a starting point; there are many additional dietary supplements that truly "supplement" the diet with nutrients that are often missing or suboptimal (phytonutrients such as carotenoids, isothiocyanates, and polyphenolic antioxidants are notable examples), as well as several well-studied natural ingredients that address specific health concerns but may not be "normal" constituents of the diet (herbal supplements such as milk thistle or saw palmetto fall into this category).

    Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids from fish, shellfish, algae, or seed oils that have well-established roles in human nutrition, both as building blocks for the cell membranes of the brain, and as precursors to the human body's own natural anti-inflammatory system. Sufficient intake of omega-3s has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, may facilitate healthy levels of circulating cholesterol and triglycerides, and may help maintain a healthy heartbeat and blood pressure. A balanced inflammatory response also relies on sufficient omega-3 fatty acids for the synthesis of endogenous anti-inflammatory factors.

    Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a constituent of seed oils from flax, perilla, and chia, is an essential nutrient for humans. The principle omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from marine oils are not considered essential to human nutrition (we can make these from dietary ALA), but there is evidence some people may have trouble synthesizing sufficient levels of these fatty acids on their own, making them a good supplement choice. Omega-3 fatty acids from krill (a cold water crustacean) are in a potentially more bioavailable form (phospholipids) and contain high levels of the fat soluble antioxidant astaxanthin. Initial studies of krill oil suggest it may have a more potent lipid-lowering effect than other cold-water fish oils, meriting its choice as an omega-3 source.

    Whey Protein. It's not a capsule, and might be better described as a food product, but whey deserves consideration for increasing the amount of high-quality protein and essential amino acids in the diet. Whey protein is the "soluble" protein fraction from milk, and is commonly sold as a concentrate (most often about 70 percent protein with very low amounts of milk sugar or fat) or isolate (>90 percent protein, usually fatand lactose-free ), as well as in flavored pre-mixes or ready to drink beverages. Diets which are higher in protein have been associated with better glycemic control, normalized blood lipids, and have been shown to promote greater fat reduction, thermogenesis, and energy expenditure than high carbohydrate or high fat diets. Protein can also be more satiating than other macronutrients. "Fast proteins," like whey, are quickly digested and absorbed, which results in large, rapid increases of amino acids in the bloodstream following a meal, signaling fullness. Compared to other common protein supplements (soy, casein), whey exhibits superior appetite suppression when taken with a meal as 25 percent of total calories.

    Many of the health benefits of whey have been attributed to its high concentration of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), a group of three nutritionally essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine). BCAAs serve as muscle fuel (which is why whey is often considered a “sports” supplement), but they may also stimulate the bodies basic satiety response. BCAAs also aid in fat loss, preserve lean body mass, and may help to lower insulin levels following a meal.

    Probiotics: Probiotics are living microorganisms, which upon ingestion in sufficient numbers, exert health benefits beyond general nutrition. Probiotic bacteria and yeast can reside on the surfaces of mucosal tissues (such as the gastrointestinal or upper respiratory tract) and provide a living barrier to environmental insults. Probiotic bacteria function in a variety of ways; they can inhibit the growth or block the attachment of rival pathogenic bacteria, they can improve the barrier function of mucosal membranes (providing protection from pathogens or toxins), they bolster immune function, produce vitamins, and enhance mineral absorption. Probiotic bacteria can play significant roles in systemic detoxification by trapping and metabolizing harmful dietary compounds or heavy metals. The production of the short chain fatty acids by probiotic bacteria in the intestines (from the fermentation of dietary fiber) improves the detox function of the liver and skin; this may also contribute to some of the anti-carcinogenic properties of dietary fiber.

    Probiotic supplements come in a myriad of forms and formulations, encompassing a wide variety of bacterial species and potency (probiotic potency is expressed in colony forming units—CFU—which is a measurement of the number of bacteria per serving.) A good starting point for general health maintenance would be a multi-strain product (having more than one type of bacteria) at a moderate potency (3–10 billion organisms); this is similar to the probiotic intake from a diet that contains fermented foods.

    Fiber Supplements: Fibers are polysaccharides (complex carbohydrates) that are indigestible by humans, yet have some significant roles in general health maintenance. The bulk of fiber and its resistance to digestion lend it satiating properties in the stomach; these same properties also cause it to increase the bulk of stool and hasten the transit of digested food through the intestines. This increase in gastric motility helps to minimize exposure of colonic epithelial cells to potential carcinogenic compounds or other dietary toxins. Dietary fibers can bind up bile acids and cholesterol, and prevent them from being re-absorbed; this facilitates the body’s ability to rid itself of excess cholesterol. Some fibers can also be specifically digested (fermented) by beneficial colonic bacteria into short chain fatty acids (like lactate or butyrate), which have their own health benefits throughout the body. Fermentable or prebiotic fibers (such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides) are available as supplements as well and are an appropriate complement to probiotics.

    There is convincing evidence that fiber intake reduces the risk of colon and breast cancers and cardiovascular disease; it has also been associated with healthy body weight, serum cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, and blood pressure. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of adults in the United States do not get the daily recommended intake of fiber, which is 38 grams/day for men 19–50 (30 grams/day for men over 50) and 25 grams/day for women 19–50 (21 grams/ day for women over 50). Even a modest increase to 20 grams a day from average current dietary levels has been estimated to reduce the rate of colorectal cancer by 40 percent. The fiber in our diets is heterogenous, containing several types of gums, pectins, lignans, cellulose, beta-glucans, fructans, and digestion-resistant starches. A good choice in fiber supplements would contain a mixture of multiple fiber types.

    Coenzyme Q10. Despite being the only member of the list that isn’t a nutritionally essential nutrient or a major component of the diet (young, healthy people can make sufficient CoQ10 for their metabolic needs), the potential health benefits of CoQ10 merit its consideration as part of a supplement regimen, especially in older consumers. CoQ10 is a fat-soluble substance that is an essential component of the energy production system in cells. It is found in each cell in the body, but is particularly concentrated in tissues which have large energy requirements (like the heart). There are also substantial amounts of CoQ10 in the blood, protecting circulating lipids (LDL and HDL) from oxidative damage. Supplemental CoQ10 has been the subject of numerous studies, particularly in applications for improving cardiovascular health (as in subjects with chronic heart failure, exercise-induced angina, or hypertension); it may also be protective of the cardiovascular system in diabetics. CoQ10 continues to be the subject of academic research, and is beginning to find acceptance as a supplement amongst mainstream medical practitioners.

    The average diet contains only a small amount of CoQ10, which is generally poorly absorbed (by some estimates, as little as two to three percent of dietary CoQ10 is absorbed). Variability in absorption also appears to be age-dependent; case reports suggest decreased fractional absorption in older patients. Several "enhanced absorption" strategies and products have been developed to overcome this hurdle, with improved uptakes verified by clinical data. Recently, the second naturallyoccurring form of CoQ10 (ubiquinol) has been introduced into the supplement market (CoQ10 supplements have typically been in the form of ubiquinone.) Ubiquinol is absorbed more efficiently than ubiquinone, especially in individuals who have difficulty absorbing CoQ10.

  • Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb that grows in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Spain, parts of the Middle East, Africa, and the Canary Islands. It is sometimes called "Indian ginseng," probably because it is employed as an adaptogen or tonic in Ayurvedic traditional medicine.1 It is not, however, related to "true" ginseng (P. ginseng, P. quinquifolium). The root is used medicinally, although the seeds, shoots, juice and leaves have all been used traditionally as well.2

    Phytochemical contents
    Ashwagandha has been found to contain steroidal lactones called withanolides. Much of the pharmacological activities Ashwagandha are attributed to the presence of these steroidal lactones.3,4 In addition, the roots provide alkaloids, 18 fatty acids, beta sitesterol, polyphenols and phytosterols.5

    Common uses
    Traditional use of Ashwagandha includes its use as an aphrodisiac. As a folk remedy, it has a long list of uses. It is listed in the Indian Materia Medica, and is part of Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani traditions. Published research on Ashwagandha reveals a variety of potentially valuable and diverse uses for improving and supporting health. Following is a discussion of each of these potential uses.

    Chemotherapy and radiation therapy Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are commonly used to treat individuals with cancer. One problem associated with both of these treatments are that they can reduce white blood cell (WBC) count; and chemotherapy can cause mylosuppression-a reduced capacity of bone marrow to produce WBC. In turn, this can lead to patient susceptibility to other infections. Animal research has shown that Ashwagandha is capable of increasing WBC count when used with either chemotherapy or radiation therapy.6,7 Similar research has shown that this herb can also reduce mylosuppression in association with chemotherapy.8

    In addition, several studies have shown Ashwagandha to be effective at inhibiting tumor growth in test animals while enhancing radiosensitivity, the ability of radiation therapy to kill tumor cells.9,10,11,12,13,14 In one study, Ashwagandha was able to inhibit tumor growth in animals even without radiation therapy.15

    Immune function
    Besides it potential for treating cancer, research has shown that Ashwagandha is capable of improving immune function. This was demonstrated in one study where mice experienced an increase phagocytosis and intracellular macrophage activity against a pathogen when given a daily dose of Ashwagandha.16 In another study on mice, Ashwagandha was shown to improve the tumor-fighting ability of macrophages in relation to a known carcinogen.17 Ashwagandha has also prevented myelosuppression in mice treated with immunosuppressive drugs, and led to a significant increase in hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell count, white blood cell count, platelet count, and body weight, in addition to providing immunostimulatory activity.18

    Finally, in a series of experiments, various techniques were used to suppress the immune response of mice, then subjected them to infectious organisms. In each experiment, mice pretreated with one of six herbs, including Ashwagandha, fared significantly better than control mice. Mice receiving the herbs demonstrated faster recovery, less disease, and lower mortality. These herbs blunted artificially-induced neutropenia (a deficit of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell) and stimulated leucocytosis (an increase of white blood cells). In treatments that employed both antibiotics and these herbs the combination produced a significantly greater healing effect than either treatment used alone. The herbs also reduced stress-induced damage.19

    Antioxidant activity
    Apparently, one of Ashwagandha's mechanisms of action is that it has significant antioxidant activity. In one study, Ashwagandha significantly reduced free radical oxidation in the livers of mice, while concurrently increasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase.20 Other research has shown that Ashwagandha reduced free radical activity in stress induced animals.21 In another study, Ashwagandha administered once daily for 21 days, induced a dose related increase in SOD, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase in rats.22 One interesting study showed that as part of an Ayurvedic herbal formulation, Ashwagandha increased SOD activity in the pancreas of diabetic rats.23

    Brain chemistry
    Ashwagandha has also been used in the treatment of mental and emotional well-being, since it can influence brain chemistry in positive ways. For example it has been shown to be capable of improving memory and enhancing cognitive function in animal research by improving acetylcholine activity in the brain and binding to acetylcholine receptor sites.24 This herb also has GABA mimetic activity-that is it can mimic some of the activity of the relaxing neurotransmitter GABA.25 Clinical trials have shown that Ashwagandha can alleviate a reactive type of depression without sedating. Instead, it "optimizes mental and psychomotor performance by easing the mental stress bundle."26

    Aphrodisiac
    In a clinical trial of ashwagandha on the aging process in over 100 men, 71.4 percent of the men reported improvement in their capacity of sexual performance. These responses seem to support the herb's traditional use as an aphrodisiac.27

    Anti-inflammatory & anti-arthritic activity
    Ashwagandha has demonstrated some very effective anti-inflammatory activity. In fact, in one study its anti-inflammatory activity was comparable to that of a 5-mg/kg dose of hydrocortisone.28 In another study, five plants were assessed for their anti-inflammatory activity. Results showed that while each of the plants possessed varying degrees of anti inflammatory activity, Ashwagandha possessed the greatest.29

    Perhaps the anti-inflammatory activity of Ashwagandha explains its efficacy in arthritis. In a one-month study, a combination of Ashwagandha, Boswellia serrata, Tumeric, and zinc were given to 42 patients with osteoarthritis. At the end of the study, there was a significant drop in severity of pain and disability.30

    Anti-stress & anabolic activity
    Given their relative similarities in function, a comparative study was performed on Ginseng (Panax ginseng), and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Using aqueous suspensions of the powdered root, each herb was tested in mice: (1) for anti-stress activity (by the swimming endurance test); and (2) anabolic activity (by the weight measurement of body weight and levator ani muscle). In the swimming endurance test, Ashwagandha and Ginseng each showed anti-stress activity as compared to the control group, although the activity was higher with Ginseng. In the anabolic study, the mice treated with Ashwagandha showed a greater gain in body weight than those treated with Ginseng, although significant anabolic activity was observed for both herbs.31

    Morphine dependence
    Although only tested thus far in mice, Ashwagandha may help reduce dependence on morphine. In a 10-day study, Ashwagandha, helped prevent tolerance to morphine from developing. This is important since developing a tolerance for a drug often leads to increased doses and abuses. Also, Ashwagandha suppressed morphine withdrawal jumps, a sign of the development of dependence to morphine.32

    Glandular support
    As if all of the aforementioned benefits weren't sufficient, Ashwagandha also supports the function of the thyroid, liver and pancreas. After being administered on a daily basis for 20 days, mice experienced an increase in both T3 and T4 thyroid hormones. In the same study, Ashwagandha also decreased free radical activity in the liver.33 In another study, a combination of Ashwagandha and other herbs (Tinospora cordifolia, Eclipta alba, Ocimum sanctum, Picrorrhiza kurroa and shilajit) administered once daily for 28 days decreased blood sugar levels in diabetic rats, and decreased free radical activity in their pancreas as well. This activity in the pancreas is important since the reduction in blood sugar may be due to pancreatic free radical scavenging activity, which protects the cells that produce insulin.34

    Safety
    To determine any potential toxicity of Ashwagandha (as well as Panax Ginseng), a study was conducted in rats with 90 days oral administration using three doses. Food consumption, body weight, haematological, biochemical and histopathological parameters were studied. The results were that brain, heart, lung, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, testis and ovaries were normal on gross examination and histopathologically. Sub-acute toxicity studies in rats did not reveal any toxicity.35 Apparently, Ashwagandha is a safe herb. Even so, one research has suggested that Ashwagandha is contraindicated during pregnancy.36

    References

    1. Choudhary M, et al, Phytochemistry (1995) 40(4):1243-6.
    2. Lindner S, Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism (1996) 8(3):78-82.
    3. Choudhary M, et al, Phytochemistry (1995) 40(4):1243-6.
    4. Elsakka M, et al, Rev Med Chir Soc Med Nat Iasi (1990) 94(2):385 7.
    5. Ibid.
    6. Davis L, Kuttan G, J Ethnopharmacol (1998) 62(3):209 14.
    7. Kuttan G, Indian J Exp Biol (1996) 34(9):854 6.
    8. Praveenkumar V, et al, Tumori (1994) 80(4):306 8.
    9. Ganasoundari A, Zare SM, Devi PU, Br J Radiol (1997) 70(834):599 602.
    10. Devi PU, Indian J Exp Biol (1996) 34(10):927 32
    11. Sharad AC, et al, Acta Oncol (1996) 35(1):95 100.
    12. Devi PU, Int J Radiat Biol (1996) 69(2):193 7.
    13. Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE, Cancer Lett (1995) 95(1 2):189 93.
    14. Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE, Indian J Exp Biol (1993) 31(7):607 11.
    15. Devi PU, et al, Indian J Exp Biol (1992) 30(3):169 72.
    16. Dhuley JN, Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol (1998) 20(1):191 8.
    17. Dhuley JN, J Ethnopharmacol (1997) 58(1):15 20
    18. Ziauddin M, J Ethnopharmacol (1996) 50(2):69 76.
    19. Dahanukar S, Thatte U, Phytomedicine (1997) 4(4):359-368.
    20. Panda S, Kar A, J Pharm Pharmacol (1998) 50(9):1065 8.
    21. Dhuley JN, J Ethnopharmacol (1998) 60(2):173 8.
    22. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Ghosal S, Indian J Exp Biol (1997) 35(3):236 9.
    23. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Chakrabarti A, Indian J Exp Biol (1997) 35(3):297 9.
    24. Schliebs R, et al, Neurochem Int (1997) 30(2):181 90.
    25. Mehta AK, et al, Indian J Med Res (1991) 94:312 5.
    26. Katiyar CK, et al, Immunomodulator Products from Ayurveda: Current status and future perspectives. In: Immunomodulation, S.N. Upadhyay (Ed), (1997) Narosa Publishing House, New Delhi, India, pp. 163-187.
    27. Linder, op cit
    28. al Hindawi MK, al Khafaji SH, Abdul Nabi MH, J Ethnopharmacol (1992) 37(2):113 6.
    29. Al Hindawi MK, et al, J Ethnopharmacol (1989) 26(2):163 8.
    30. Kulkarni RR, et al, J Ethnopharmacol (1991) 33(1 2):91 5.
    31. Grandhi, et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology (1994) 44:131-135.
    32. Kulkarni SK, Ninan I, J Ethnopharmacol (1997) 57(3):213 7.
    33. Panda S, Kar A, J Pharm Pharmacol (1998) 50(9):1065 8.
    34. Bhattacharya SK, Satyan KS, Chakrabarti A, Indian J Exp Biol (1997) 35(3):297 9.
    35. Aphale AA, et al, Indian J Physiol Pharmacol (1998) 42(2):299 302.
    36. Linder, op cit
  • Moducare: For a strong immune system

    Moducare® is a patented blend of plant sterols and sterolins, and the only sterol/sterolin product clinically proven to be effective in immune modulation. Moducare can be considered an adjunct to help shift immune responses to a more balanced state. It enhances the activity of various immune cells and increases the killing ability of specialized cells, called Natural Killer cells, responsible for immune surveillance. Moducare also has anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce the effects of stress on the immune system by managing the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. Moducare is well-tolerated, with no known interactions with either prescribed medications or natural supplements. Plus, long-term studies have found that it has no significant negative side effects.

    Human Research Proves Plant Sterols Action
    We call sterols the forgotten nutrient because although thousands of research studies have been preformed on this nutrient, it has not been given the recognition it deserves.

    Over 4,000 published studies to date have examined phytosterols and 140 of these studies are double-blind, placebo-controlled human trials. Rheumatoid arthritis, cervical cancer, diabetes, immune function, prostate problems, HI V, herpes, hepatitis C, allergies, stress-induced immune suppression, chronic fatigue, tuberculosis, breast cancer, and high cholesterol are only some of the diseases where sterols and sterolins have been shown to be extremely effective.

    Plant sterols and sterolins are essential for modulating (balancing) the immune system, enhancing it if it is under active, and reducing it when it is over stimulated. They perform the balancing act very effectively. Patrick J.D. Bouic, Ph.D., has shown in his research that plant sterols and sterolins are effective in enhancing an under active immune system and/or decreasing an overactive one. This happens without the side effects associated with pharmaceutical substances such as interferon, prednisone or methotrexate. Sterols and sterolins have been evaluated in a 25,000-person safety study and found to have no side effects, no drug interactions, and no toxicity. It is safe for children, as well as pregnant and nursing mothers. Only those who have had an organ transplant cannot take plant sterols because they may stimulate rejection.

    Plant sterols and sterolins also increase the number and action of natural killer cells (our cancer fighters) and increase our DHE A levels naturally. They are also able to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and the proinflammatory immune factor, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TN F-a). Interleukin-6 and (TN F-a) are increased in autoimmune disorders, osteoporosis, over exercising, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis. Reduction of this inflammatory agent is the key to halting symptoms and pain. This is exactly what plant sterols and sterolins do.

    Sterols—Great Stress Busters
    Chronic stress is so negative that it can promote and exacerbate most disease. Numerous studies have linked our ability to deal with stress to our susceptibility to the common cold as well as more serious diseases such as cancer. Adults who have recently lost a loved one or have been divorced or separated tend to have the highest cancer rates. Unrelieved stress gradually weakens and suppresses our immune system, causing disease. Stressful situations promote the release of cortisol, the stress hormone which in turn causes the secretion of a negative immune factor interleukin-6. Abnormal levels of IL-6 are associated with osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, asthma, inflammatory diseases including arthritis, and more. We know that phytosterols are effective in reducing IL-6, cortisol and other negative immune factors. They also improve DHEA, a hormone known to help fight the effects of stress.

    An overview follows of a few of the outstanding studies published.

    Sterols Lower Cholesterol
    The rapid cholesterol-lowering effects of phytosterols have been reported in over 400 studies. Beta-sitosterol is very similar in structure to cholesterol except that it has an extra ethyl group on the side chain. Due to this similarity, it interferes with the absorption of the cholesterol found in our foods as well as the cholesterol produced by the body. By including phytosterol-rich foods or supplements containing sterols, we can normalize cholesterol much faster than with the common cholesterol-lowering drugs.

    Sterols Halt Hepatitis C
    Hepatitis C is now occurring in epidemic proportions. Over four million North Americans are infected with hepatitis C. Liver specialists are overwhelmed as they struggle to deal with the increase in the incidence of this disease. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in North America. Physicians using sterols and sterolins to treat hepatitis C have already shown that with 90 days of the sterols and sterolins treatment liver enzymes and viral load normalize.

    Sterols, Heart Disease and DHEA
    A team of Canadian researchers discovered that an error in the regulation of certain immune cells that fight bacterial infections may be implicated in heart attacks and strokes. In a study published in the International Journal of Immunopharmacology, plant sterols and sterolins are shown to improve the ability of the immune system to fight bacterial infections. Sterols and sterolins, not antibiotics, may be the way to treat bacterial-induced heart disease.

    Prostate Problems Eliminated
    Urologists in Germany have been using plant sterols and sterolins for over two decades for the treatment of enlarged prostate. In one double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 200 patients with an average age of 65 and with BPH, subjects were given sterols and sterolins for six months. The treatment group showed a rapid reduction of the symptoms mentioned above and an increase in peak urinary flow and a decrease in inflammation. When does a health food product become mainstream? Do 4,000 medical studies constitute good scientific evidence of a nutrient’s effectiveness? We believe plant sterols and sterolins will change the way we treat disease in the future. Instead of treating symptoms, we will get directly to the source of the symptoms and repair the cause of the disease.

  • The Amazing Benefits of Green Tea

    Amazing Benefits of Green Tea by Gene Bruno

    Green tea has been consumed for more than three thousand years for both its refreshing and health promoting benefits. In fact, a historical perspective1 on green and black tea reported that they are among the most widely consumed beverages in the world, second only to water. Dogma has it that, for 4,000 years people knew tea might have health-promoting properties since it was frequently used as fluid supply for patients suffering from infectious diseases. This article will review a number of green tea's many benefits to human health, including its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, its anti-cancer activity, and its ability to promote both cardiovascular health and weight loss. Before jumping into its benefits, however, let's first take a look at the difference between green, black and oolong tea.

    Green, black and oolong tea
    Green, black and oolong tea all come from the same species, Camellia sinensis. Green tea, however, is different than black and oolong teas because it is not fermented. Black tea is fully fermented and oolong tea is partially fermented, whereas green tea is produced by steaming fresh leaves. The steaming doesn't decrease polyphenols in green tea, such as flavanols, flavandiols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which are abundant. One group of flavanols are known as catechins. These include epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin gallate (ECG), and epicatechin (EC), which are responsible for many of green tea's benefits. Growing conditions, leaf age, and storage during and after transport affect the amount of polyphenols and catechins in green tea. For example, green tea catechins can range from 69 to 103 mg/gram of tea,2,3 although green tea extracts may provide significantly higher amounts.

    Antioxidant properties
    Green tea has significant antioxidant properties.4 Laboratory research5 found that green tea slowed down the oxidation of LDL cholesterol ('bad cholesterol'), which is associated with atherosclerosis, or the build-up of plaque on arterial walls. A cup of green tea contains 50 to 100 mg of polyphenols (approximately 6,300 to 12,600 times higher than the dose used in the laboratory study). Therefore, one cup of green tea a day may provide a therapeutic dose of antioxidant polyphenols, and green tea extracts with higher polyphenol content likely provide even greater antioxidant activity. In fact, in human research,6 the consumption of green tea extract (high in polyphenols) led to a greater increase in plasma antioxidant activity than when given as a standard tea. This makes sense when considering that the antioxidant score (aka, ORAC score) for a cup of brewed green tea is 1253 ORAC units,7 while one gram of green tea extract has 3,996 ORAC units.8 Depending upon the actual extract, some green tea products may even have a higher ORAC value.

    Anti-inflammatory activity
    Catechins in green tea have anti-inflammatory activity. This includes a reduction in the following inflammatory markers: leukotriene-B4, 5-lipoxygenase,9 COX-2 and nitric oxide synthase.10 In addition, EGCG and other catechins in green tea might reduce inflammation and protect cartilage by inhibiting proteoglycan and collagen breakdown,11 which may have positive implications for joints as seen in laboratory models of rheumatoid arthritis.12 Other examples of green tea's anti-inflammatory effect include a reduction gum (gingival) inflammation,13 protection against sunburn inflammation,14 and a reduction in a marker of chronic inflammation as a cardiovascular risk factor.15

    Anti-cancer activity
    Research suggests that green tea may protect against some kinds of cancer. Tea polyphenols have antimutagenic effects and protect DNA,16 reduce oxidative DNA damage, lipid peroxidation, and free radical generation.17 In animal or laboratory research green tea catechins prevented new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in tumors and inhibited tumor cell proliferation resulting cell death (apoptosis).18,19,20,21,22,23 In human research, green tea was shown to reduce mutagenic activity in smokers.24

    Cardiovascular health
    A population based study25 of 40,530 healthy adults aged 40 to 79 years found that the consumption of three or more cups of green tea daily for 11 years significantly decreases the risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality compared to drinking less than one cup daily, and this association was primarily related to a decrease in risk for stroke (cerebral infarction). In another population study of 1371 men, aged 40 years or older, increased daily consumption of green tea resulted in significantly decreased serum levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (‘bad cholesterol'), and triglycerides, while increasing HDL cholesterol (‘good cholesterol'). Moreover, there was a decrease in other serum markers of liver disease, especially when more than 10 cups of green tea daily was consumed.

    Weight loss properties
    A population study26 of 1,210 adults examined the relationship between habitual tea consumption (mostly green and oolong tea) and changes in total body fat and fat distribution in humans. Results were that habitual tea drinkers for more than 10 years showed a 19.6 percent reduction in body fat percentage and a 2.1 percent reduction in waist-to-hip ratio compared with nonhabitual tea drinkers. Other research27 has shown that higher intakes of polyphenols (favonols/flavones, catechins) from tea and other sources were associated with a significantly lower increase in BMI (body mass index), a measure of healthy body weight. Furthermore, other research has shown that green tea extract stimulates thermogenesis (i.e. fat burning)28 and helped obese individuals lose weight.29

    Conclusion
    Green tea has many health benefits to offer, and it is a worthwhile endeavor to include it as part of your daily routine. Drinking a few cups of green tea each day or, better yet, using a green tea extract high in polyphenols will provide you with antioxidant protection while providing a plethora of other benefits.

    References

    1. Weisburger JH. Tea and health: a historical perspective. Cancer Lett 1997;114(1–2):315–7.
    2. Khokhar S, Magnusdottir SG. Total phenol, catechin, and caffeine contents of teas commonly consumed in the United kingdom. J Agric Food Chem 2002;50:565–70.
    3. Henning M, Fajardo-Lira C, Lee HW, et al. Catechin content of 18 teas and a green tea extract supplement correlates with the antioxidant capacity. Nutr Cancer 2003;45:226–35.
    4. Vertuani S, Bosco E, Braccioli E, Manfredini S. Water soluble antioxidant capacity of different teas—determination by photochemiluminescence. Nutrafoods. 2004;3(2):5–11.
    5. Luo M, Wahlqvist M, and O’Brien R. Inhibition of LDL oxidation by green tea extract. Lancet. 1997 Feb 1;349(9048):360–1.
    6. Henning SM, Niu Y, Lee NH, et al. Bioavailability and antioxidant activity of tea flavanols after consumption of green tea, black tea, or a green tea extract supplement. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80(6):1558–64.
    7. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2010. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2: pg. 36.
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  • The Special Nutritional Needs of Men

    Solving the Mystery of the Multivitamin Part III

    This article is the third in the series begun with “Solving the Mystery of the Multivitamin” and continued with “The Special Nutritional Needs of Women.” Here it is observed again you do not need to believe “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” in order to accept that men and women have different nutritional needs. Men lead in eight of the top ten causes of death in the United States. As it is often remarked, because men are more reluctant than women to seek medical care, when they do so, their illnesses typically have advanced to a more serious degree. It would seem that men, even more than women, would do well to adopt defensive measures to preserve their health. However, men should not depend on the supplements used by their wives or women friends. Some preventative measures are strictly gender-specific. The following suggestions are designed to help men take charge of their health while the ball is still in their court.