Scientists at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom have just discovered that when green tea is consumed, the digestive process in the gut creates powerful chemicals that work to protect the body against two of humankind's most dreaded diseases -- Alzheimer's and cancer. The research, headed by Dr. Ed Okello, was recently published in the academic journal Phytomedicine.
The British scientists set out to see if the protective properties attributed to phytochemicals found in undigested, freshly brewed green tea are substantially active in the body once the tea is consumed. Dr Okello explained in a statement to the media that just because we eat or drink something that is generally accepted to contain healthful properties, that doesn't mean these compounds will actually be absorbed by the body.
"What was really exciting about this study was that we found when green tea is digested by enzymes in the gut, the resulting chemicals are actually more effective against key triggers of Alzheimer's development than the undigested form of the tea," Dr Okello, of Newcastle's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, said in the press statement. "In addition to this, we also found the digested compounds had anti-cancer properties, significantly slowing down the growth of the tumor cells which we were using in our experiments."
Dr. Okello's Newcastle team worked in collaboration with Dr. Gordon McDougall of the Plant Products and Food Quality Group at the Scottish Crop Research Institute in Dundee where technology has been developed which simulates the human digestive system. By using this high tech system, the researchers were able to analyze what happens to green tea once it is digested.
Earlier research has already shown that natural compounds known as polyphenols found in both black and green tea have neuroprotective properties. They bind with two toxic compounds (hydrogen peroxide and a protein known as beta-amyloid) known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. For part of their new study, the research team conducted experiments in the lab using cells exposed to varying concentrations of the different toxins as well as digested green tea compounds. They also looked to see the impact of digested green tea on cancer cells.
The results? The digested green tea chemicals prevented the Alzheimer's disease-linked toxins from destroying normal cells. "We also saw them affecting the cancer cells, significantly slowing down their growth," Dr. Okello stated. "Green tea has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and what we have here provides the scientific evidence why it may be effective against some of the key diseases we face today."