Polyphenols found in green tea may both prevent arthritis and reduce the severity of symptoms according to a study published in the April 1999 edition of the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers compared mice who were fed water containing 0.2% green tea polyphenols with mice who received pure water after the mice were injected with collagen in order to induce arthritis.
In three independent tests, the mice in the group fed the green tea extract were less likely to develop arthritis, tended to develop the disease later in life, and experienced less severe arthritis. In the first study 33% of mice developed arthritis in the green tea group compared to 100% in the pure water group. The average time to the onset of arthritis symptoms was 38 days for the green tea group and 32 days for the control group.
Results were similar in the other two studies with 50% of the mice developing arthritis in the green tea group in both the second and third studies while 100% and 83% of the mice in the control groups developing arthritis. The mean time to onset of arthritis in the green tea group was 36 and 45 days for studies two and three respectively compared to 32 days in both of the control groups.
Across the three studies combined, 44% of the mice fed the green tea extract developed arthritis while 94% of the mice who received pure water developed arthritis.
The severity of arthritis as measured by the arthritis index was also greater in the control groups than the green tea groups. Arthritis index scores were 1.00, 1.16 and 1.33 for the green tea groups and 4.16, 4.66 and 4.00 in the control groups.
Lead researcher Tariq M. Haqqi, who is the associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland added that: “Extensive laboratory research and the epidemiologic findings of the last 15 years have revealed that polyphenolic compounds present in green tea may prevent the onset and subsequent progression of a variety of illnesses. Perhaps now arthritis can be added to the list.”
Polyphenol compounds including epicatechin, catechin, epigallocatechin (EGC), and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), are thought to be responsible for green teas positive effects on arthritis. A potential mechanism for the benefits of green tea may be through the ability of certain catechins to act as histidine decarboxylase inhibitors. Histidine decarboxylase is an enzyme involved in the conversion of histidine to histamine and some studies have linked histamine to the inflammatory process that occurs in rheumatoid arthritis. A 2007 study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that both EGC and EGCG were powerful inhibitors of histidine decarboxylase.
It is believed that green tea may also help prevent cardiovascular disease and some studies have shown consumption of green tea may reduce the incidence of some cancers such as prostate cancer.
Tea is the most popular beverage in the world excluding water. Black tea tends to be more popular than green tea accounting for almost 75% of global tea consumption. Black teas tend to have lower levels of antioxidants and phenolic compounds than green tea. Green tea has been very popular in Asia since 2,000 BC but has only recently started to gain popularity in the western world.
Those who have early stage rheumatoid arthritis, or who believe they may be at risk of the disease should consider switching from drinking coffee to tea as some studies have linked regular coffee consumption with an increased risk of arthritis.
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