There's nothing more beautiful than rolling hills of green tea. Green tea has been grown in Asia for many centuries because of its many health benefits. A green tea extract actually comes from green tea leaves and due to more recent scientific studies new varieties have been cultivated that offer a greater range of antioxidant molecules. Green tea benefits come in the form of catechins which are categorized as four major compounds which include epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and epigallocatechin gallate. These are all polyphenols and impart a yellow color to green tea and its extracts. These molecules are known for their antioxidant properties that are powerful free radical scavengers that can protect your cells from oxidative damage due to metabolic processes. Various flavonoids are also found in green tea such as kaempferol, quercetin and myricetin. This group of molecules also have antioxidant properties but are also powerful anti-carcinogens. As anti-carcinogens, they may help ward off the initiation of cancer however, scientific research has demonstrated they inhibit the growth of cancer cells and may prevent invasion and metastasis by cancer cells. Scientific studies indicate that green tea benefits can be realized by normal dietary intake. This means that green tea and green tea extract is not only effective with everyday use but has clinical significance for those who already have cancer. Green tea normally contains caffeine however, if you are caffeine sensitive there are teas and tea extracts available that are caffeine-free.
Green tea and green tea extracts are more than just powerful antioxidants and anti-carcinogens but also have anti-inflammatory and anti-radiation properties (protects your skin). This herb is reported to be more powerful than Ginkgo Biloba and vitamins C and E in its ability to remove free-radicals. Basic research indicates that green tea enhances the production of superoxide dismutase and glutathione dismutase which are both responsible for combating lipid oxidation which is important for cell membranes and maintaining good cholesterol.
More recently, animal studies indicate that the catechins and caffeine actually block the cell cycle in cancer cells responsible for cell proliferation while at the same time promoting programmed cell death (apoptosis). In other words, this extract inhibits cancer cells from growing and at the same time causes the cells that are already cancerous to die. Furthermore, extracts have been shown to have anti-bacterial properties against certain bacteria in the mouth. In particular, green tea has been shown to lower the levels of the sugar maltose thereby lowering the amount of Streptococcus mutans in the mouth. This is significant in terms of oral hygiene. S. mutans is responsible for most of the cavities you get.
The production of free-radicals are inevitable in biological systems simply because we use oxygen as a part of our metabolic processes. As it has been said, we are rusting from the inside out. Oxygen is necessary to burn glucose and fat to produce ATP which is the energy currency of the cell. Free radicals are also a product of radiation, smoking, alcohol consumption and other toxic molecules we take into our system.
If you're not familiar, a definition of free radical and antioxidant may be useful here. Simply put a free radical is an atom or molecule that has at least one unpaired electron in its outer shell and an antioxidant has the ability to donate an electron to a free radical. Keep in mind that a free radical is unstable and highly reactive with other molecules. Free radicals can steal atoms from other molecules causing them to fragment doing damage to enzymes, proteins and lipids in the cell and cell membrane leaving a pathway of destruction. Free-radicals need to be neutralized by antioxidants to maintain healthy metabolic pathways and healthy cells. Left unchecked for long periods of time, free-radicals build up which will eventually lead to infection, disease, cancer and aging.
Let's take a look at specific free radical damage and what it may cause. Without antioxidants around, free radicals can pull off atoms on the genome causing the genome to fragment or do damage to the bases coding for a gene. If this is not repaired, this can lead to cancer. If cholesterol looses an electron, it will turn into what is called bad cholesterol (LDL) which can form plaque and lead to hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack and stroke. Loss of electrons in the cell membrane at the surface or deep within (oxidation of fatty acids in the membrane) leads to membrane wrinkling, abnormal signal transduction and an inability to transport molecules in and out of a cell. This can lead to trash buildup inside cells clogging metabolic pathways causing them to stop working. An accumulation of abnormal and fragmented molecules inside the cell is indicative of the aging process and due to free radicals.
Green tea benefits are many and this herb has been used for centuries in Asia and more recently has become well known in the Western world. This extract has powerful antioxidant properties, promotes cardiovascular health, protects brain cells, prevents/inhibits cancer and has anti-microbial properties. Drinking green tea or taking green tea extract is an inexpensive and simple way of getting a number antioxidants you need to keep you healthy and on your way to longevity.