April 19, 2004
To take a twist on Ovid: The result is visible, the cause may soon be known.
Green tea is under study for its potential to inhibit a deadly array of cancers — including leukemia, lung, prostate and breast cancer. But up til now, the mechanism behind these effects has remained shrouded in mystery.
Scientists in Japan may have found the answer to how green tea works. Their study suggests one of green tea’s catechins (known as EGCG) actually binds to a receptor thought to be behind the spread of cancer. In an examination of human cancer cells in the lab, the malignant mechanism slowed considerably after exposure to a level of compounds available in two or three cups of green tea.
Obviously the myriad benefits of this beneficent brew have long been recognized, as aptly illustrated by the ancient Chinese proverb: Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.
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Could those green leaves of the camellia sinensis plant be a diet aid as well? Subjects in a small Swiss study burned an additional 80 calories a day by taking green tea extract, while another study done by the USDA found that those who drank five cups of tea (not green) a day burned almost 70 extra calories a day. Green tea is worth taking for its pleasure alone — but if you need to lose weight, well, every little bit helps!