Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Green tea can help fight the flu

A list of ways to avoid the flu: get the flu shot, wash your hands, cover your cough, eat healthy, drink green tea.... What?

Yes, drinking green tea can help fight strains of influenza that vaccines miss. Green tea accounts for only 20 percent of world tea consumption, but it has many health benefits. Green tea is produced by pan-frying or steaming the leaves of Camellia sinensis, to inactivate an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase. This process preserves the molecules epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), and epicatechin (EC), which are collectively called catechins and are powerful antioxidants. A typical cup of green tea contains approximately 200 to 300 mg of catechins. Black tea, which accounts for 78 percent of world tea consumption, is produced from leaves of the same plant; however, its different preparation process causes oxidation and polymerization of the catechins.

A study on the effects of green tea catechins plus theanine—another tea component—on healthcare workers exposed to the influenza virus, was performed by Dr. Keiji Matsumoto and colleagues at the University of Shizuoka, Japan. From November 2009 to April 2010, 98 workers were assigned to the catechin/theanine group and 99 were assigned to the placebo group. All worked with elderly patients, and 92.9 percent were vaccinated against influenza. The catechins and theanine were supplied in capsules that provided a 378 mg catechins and 210 mg theanine per day.

The catechin/theanine group had significantly fewer cases of flu than the placebo group—four cases in the catechin/theanine group and 16 cases in the placebo group. Flu was diagnosed as fever plus any two of the following symptoms: cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches.

Even as an ardent tea fan, I tend to drink green tea only about once a week. I plan to add it into my rotation more frequently, though it sounds like a daily dose would be ideal. This is the perfect excuse to try making Tea Jelly with green tea or baking the even more decadent Green Tea Cake.