Somehow I’ve made room for a new friend on our overflowing supplement shelf. Welcome to the Hines household, Most Honorable Green Tea Extract. May you help bring me many years of abundant health and vitality.
Laurel is a major tea drinker. She blends organic black and green tea into a powerful mixture, pours it into large juice containers, and keeps a hearty supply on hand in our two refrigerators. Laurel drinks tea throughout the day.
As for me, I’ve been staying away from her strong caffeinated brew. Given my fifty-seven year old prostate, I’ve got more important things to do than spend half the day peeing (like, blogging about my bathroom habits, which I assume the world must be as interested in as I am).
So even though Laurel has been bugging me for years to drink tea, which has many health benefits (particularly green tea), I had resisted her entreaties. I figured that while my lifespan might be lessened a bit, at least I’d decrease the chance that I’d die staring into the bottom of a toilet bowl.
Then an ad for the Life Extension Foundation’s decaffeinated Mega Green Tea Extract caught my eye. Cool! Now I could “drink” my daily ration of tea in a single pee-friendly capsule.
For several weeks I’ve been happily downing my Green Tea Extract every morning, along with twenty other capsules of various varieties that supplement my already-healthy vegetarian diet. Given that I take another fifteen capsules in the evening, I should live to be 120. Unless one of these nostrums ends up killing me.
Which is just what Laurel warned me about after she read “Burning questions about green tea” in today’s Salem Statesman-Journal. A sidebar to this generally laudatory article said:
Steer clear of green tea supplements. They may not provide the same benefits: A 2005 study found that mega-doses of green tea extract actually helped tumors grow.
Well, that got my attention. I’ll spend more time in the bathroom if that means less chance of spending time in a cancer ward. But before I chucked the green tea extract I wanted to find out more about that study.
Google led me to “Researchers warn of green tea use.” A test tube study did indeed find that very high doses of green tea extract affected a compound that regulates tumor growth.
An abstract of the research, which seemed to be written in English but was totally Greek to me, didn’t reveal the size of these mega-doses—information that also was missing from the researchers’ news release. The only clue was this statement:
Zhou said research has shown cardiovascular benefits for those who drink green tea, but many people are taking large doses of the tea as a powder supplement. This may be the equivalent of drinking hundreds of cups of tea per day.
OK, so a few cups of tea a day are almost certainly good for you, but hundreds of cups a day are bad. Figures. Drinking a hundred cups of day of anything, even water, isn’t going to be healthful. So now I needed to translate 674.25 mg of polyphenols, the amount of active green tea stuff in one of my Mega Green Tea Extract capsules, into a cups-of-tea equivalent.
In the “Available Forms” section of this University of Maryland Medical Center article about green tea I learned that the average cup of green tea contains about 50-150 mg of polyphenols. Let’s take the middle way and call it 100 mg.
Thus I’m ingesting the equivalent of 6.7 cups of tea a day via my single capsule. Maybe less, maybe more. But certainly nowhere near hundreds of cups a day.
My conclusion is that the advice in the newspaper was poorly founded. Green tea extracts should be avoided only if you’re planning on taking huge doses.
If anyone wants to take issue with my conclusion, comment away. I’m open to learning more about the safety of green tea extracts. For now, I’m going to continue getting my seven cups of tea in pill form. I believe it’ll help keep me healthy (and also, out of the bathroom.)