A new study has found that a compound in green tea may help people with rheumatoid arthritis avoid inflammation and joint damage. The study, conducted by University of Michigan researchers, was presented April 29 at the Experimental Biology 2007 conference in Washington, D.C.
"Our research is a very promising step in the search for therapies for the joint destruction experienced by people who have rheumatoid arthritis," said Salah-uddin Ahmed, Ph.D., the study's lead researcher. According to the Arthritis Foundation, more than two million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis.
Ahmed and his co-workers isolated cells called synovial fibroblasts, which form a lining of tissue that surrounds the joints. In cases of rheumatoid arthritis, this lining becomes inflamed, resulting in chronic pain and long-term joint damage.
The researchers cultured synovial fibroblasts from rheumatoid arthritis patients and then exposed the cells to epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a naturally occurring compound in green tea. They found that EGCG blocked two potent molecules that cause the bone breakdown in rheumatoid arthritis-affected joints. Ahmed stated that the EGCG "significantly" blocked the harmful molecules. He and his co-workers observed that EGCG also blocked production prostaglandin E2, which causes joint inflammation.
Ahmed said that people might want to try drinking three or four 8-ounce cups of green tea per day. "Drink it continuously throughout the day," he said, to keep blood levels constant.
While this is the first study measuring the effects of EGCG on synovia fibroblasts, an earlier study demonstrated that polyphenols in green tea could prevent the onset of arthritis. In 1999, researchers at Case Western Reserve University's School of Medicine studied the effects of green tea on mice; the researchers found that mice given green tea were significantly less likely to develop arthritis than mice in a control group. The extract given to the mice was the equivalent of a human intake of four cups of green tea per day.
Editor's note: When sourcing green tea products, make a special effort to find organic green tea products. Many cheaper, imported green teas are contaminated with harmful fluoride.