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Does Green Tea Help the Heart?
All it took, says Vlachopoulos, was 6 g of green tea, which amounts to 3 to 4 cups. To make sure the dilation effect was not due to the small amounts of caffeine found in green tea, the group compared the arterial sizes in the green-tea drinkers with those consuming a diluted caffeine beverage and found no change in arterial size in the caffeine drinkers. Even more intriguing, the beneficial effect seems to be long-lasting and cumulative. When the doctors measured the green-tea drinkers' arteries two weeks after daily consumption of the beverage, they found that their vessels were more dilated than they had been at the beginning of the study. "It's something that needs to be investigated, but we think that if someone takes green tea for one or two months, the beneficial effect will be even greater," says Vlachopoulos.
But experts caution that one study isn't enough to catapult green tea to wonder-drink status. Dr. Robert Eckel, a professor at the University of Colorado, Denver, and past president of the American Heart Association, notes that endothelial function is affected by a number of factors, including large doses of vitamins E and C. "Green-tea consumption may have beneficial effects on the arteries, but we should stop short of translating that into a recommendation that everybody should be drinking green tea because it's been proven to reduce heart attacks and strokes," he says. He acknowledges, however, that early studies hint that green tea may be a good addition to a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association does not yet include the beverage in its dietary recommendations, but more studies like this one may change that. In the meantime, if you're drinking tea, it might not be such a bad idea to go green.
The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clotsof Kansas determined thatepigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)is twice as powerful as resveratrol, which may explain why the rate of heart disease among Japanese men is quite low, even though approximately seventy-five percent are smokers.