Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+ Join today!.
It’s already a well-known fact that green tea is one potent drink. Sipping some green tea can help to soothe inflammation, calm joint pain, and offer up a wealth of free radical fighting antioxidants. But research into just how many health benefits green tea offers continues – and now, experts suggest that it may be a nutritional tool you can turn to for head-to-toe wellness.
Get a mug of green tea ready; here’s the latest on how this drink may be able to improve your heart health, your gut health, and other key aspects of well-being.
Green tea’s anti-inflammatory properties are far-reaching when it comes to overall health and wellness
In 2019, researchers at The Ohio State University found that there may be a potential benefit to green tea that goes well beyond inflammation. In their work, they uncovered a potential association between lower obesity and fewer health risks in mice, and they also saw improved gut health.
So, the team decided to take that work one step further and see if there may be a link between green tea and positive health outcomes in humans. Their findings, which were published in Current Developments in Nutrition, suggest that green tea may have a potentially significant effect on obesity and its related risks.
In this most recent clinical trial, researchers examined 40 participants – 21 of whom were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, 19 of whom were healthy. All of the participants consumed gummy confections that contained green tea extract for 28 days, giving them a daily dose equal to about five cups of green tea. They then took a month off, followed by a placebo for 28 days. Throughout the entirety of the trial, all of the participants stuck to diets low in polyphenols (the naturally-occurring antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, teas, and spices).
Ultimately, the researchers found that participants’ fasting blood glucose levels were significantly lower when they took green tea extract. Additionally the green tea extract also led to decreased gut inflammation, with a reduction in proinflammatory proteins. Those who took a placebo saw neither of these benefits.
Another notable finding was that gut permeability – better known as “leaky gut” – also decreased in those who’d taken green tea extract. With less gut permeability, there’s a lower risk of intestinal bacteria and other toxic compounds entering the bloodstream and potentially causing chronic inflammation.
Green tea may be particularly beneficial at combating metabolic syndrome
The study’s findings also suggested that green tea – or, specifically, green tea extract – may be of benefit to those living with metabolic syndrome.
What, exactly, is metabolic syndrome? According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s a group of conditions that, when combined, can increase your risk for health concerns like coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. You can be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of the following conditions:
- A large waistline or abdominal obesity
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar (or blood glucose)
- High blood triglycerides
- Low HDL cholesterol
Usually, metabolic syndrome isn’t treated with medications; instead, it’s watched by doctors and lifestyle changes like weight loss and exercise are often recommended.
But as the study’s senior author Richard Bruno, professor of human nutrition at The Ohio State University, told Science Daily, “Our work is aiming to give people a new food-based tool to help manage their risk for metabolic syndrome or to reverse metabolic syndrome.”
Because the findings show green tea has a positive effect on concerns like blood glucose levels and leaky gut, Bruno explains, “What this tells us is that within one month we’re able to lower blood glucose in both people with metabolic syndrome and healthy people, and the lowering of blood glucose appears to be related to decreasing leaky gut and decreasing gut inflammation – regardless of health status.”
Further research is definitely needed before we start turning to green tea as a potential solution for metabolic syndrome, but this study holds great promise for the power of this long-enjoyed tea.
How to get the most out of green tea
So, should you start pouring yourself a mug of green tea each day to try to reap the benefits of this study? Well, before you go all in, it’s important to note that this is the first study that assesses whether green tea may be linked to the health risks of metabolic syndrome.
Plus, there’s often a difference between the type of green tea used in research studies like this and the green tea you’re working with at home. As Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CPT, and founder of ShawSimpleSwaps.com, notes, “Conducting a research study in which people have to consume a specific amount of an ingredient posed to have beneficial effects is often easier to manage in a supplement form than consuming an equitable amount of that same ingredient in its whole form, like a cup of green tea versus a supplement of green tea extract.”
But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the potential perks that come with green tea. It just may vary depending on whether you’re taking a green tea supplement or drinking tea. Shaw explains, “I would not say popping a pill is better to reap the benefits of green tea versus drinking a cup of tea on its own, but rather an opportunity for further research. A 2021 review even found that depending on the type of study conducted, the results varied so vastly amongst participants or animals when studying the microbiome changes that while it’s true green tea may have a positive effect, the mode of consumption and amounts is not a one-sized fits all approach!”
Plus, Shaw points out, green tea isn’t the only option if you want to get those good-for-you catechins: “Catechins can also be found in other foods, like broad beans and kidney beans, fruits and vegetables like strawberries, apples, and blackberries, in addition to other beverages like black tea, red wine, and (lucky for us!) chocolate.”