- Green tea has long been cited for potential health benefits.
- Now a new study is examining green tea extract and finding it may help lower blood sugar levels.
- According to research, it can also lower intestinal inflammation.
Green tea is known for its long list of potential health benefits, such as improved brain function and protection against cancer.
Now, new research on people with a handful of risk factors for heart disease shows that taking green tea extract for four weeks may also lower blood sugar levels and reduce gut inflammation. Researchers say this is one of the first studies to evaluate whether green tea can reduce health risks associated with metabolic syndrome.
“Green tea is known to be a rich source of antioxidants, substances that help fight inflammation in the body. Now we’re learning more about how green tea can benefit the gut,” said Dr. Anjali Mone, gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital. “In a new study, researchers wanted to examine the effects of green tea on gut health. Intestinal leakage, or “leaky gut,” allows bacteria and other toxins to enter the bloodstream, leading to inflammation.”
This study, published in Current Developments in Nutrition, included 40 participants, 21 with metabolic syndrome and 19 healthy adults. They received green tea extract for 28 days, followed by a placebo for 28 days, with a month’s supplement abstinence between treatments.
The researchers found that fasting blood sugar levels were lower in the participants taking the green tea extract compared to those taking the placebo. Green tea treatment was also shown in the study to reduce gut inflammation, which is signaled by a decrease in inflammatory proteins in stool.
Lead study co-author Richard Bruno, PhD, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University, said the results showed benefits after one month.
“This tells us that within a month we can lower blood sugar in both people with metabolic syndrome and healthy people, and lowering blood sugar appears to be associated with reducing leaky gut and reducing gut inflammation — regardless of health status ‘ he said in a statement.
“This could be a simple but powerful intervention for people with or at risk of metabolic syndrome. It could be a therapy we can begin with as we continue to encourage healthy lifestyle changes,” said Olivia Vaughn, a registered dietitian at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
Metabolic syndrome stems from multiple conditions occurring together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Conditions include elevated blood pressure, high blood pressure, excess fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels. Up to one in three adults in the US has metabolic syndrome.
One of the main risk factors for Metabolic syndrome is that it is triggered by leaky gut.”
High blood sugar can damage the gut barrier, triggering leaky gut, which in turn can contribute to metabolic syndrome. Traditionally, when a patient is at risk for metabolic syndrome, lifestyle changes are recommended, including dietary changes and weight loss, which can be challenging for a variety of reasons.
“These study results are promising and may offer a new tool to treat at-risk patients with metabolic syndrome,” said Mone. “The antioxidants in green tea may help fight cell damage and inflammation to improve gut and overall health.”
According to that National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, green tea has been used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan for thousands of years. It’s safe to have up to eight cups of green tea per day when consumed as a drink, and up to six cups per day for pregnant women.
Drinking too much green tea or taking too much green tea extract can have some adverse side effects.
An 8-ounce cup of green tea contains 28 milligrams of caffeine. That number is far less than coffee, which contains 96 milligrams of caffeine in an 8-ounce serving. However, if you take green tea extract, you may be consuming high levels of caffeine.
“We know that green tea or its compounds as a beverage compares to those in solid dosage forms like this [gummies] or pills work differently in the body and therefore have a different toxicity threshold,” Vaughn said. “There have been cases of liver damage with high doses but at low rates. I would recommend a person with liver disease to discuss the use of green tea/green tea extract with their doctor.”
Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is not technically an accepted medical diagnosis and as such there is limited clinical data on the condition. Treatments for other conditions such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, etc. have helped shed light on the treatment of leaky gut and metabolic syndrome.
For example, a gluten-free diet can help relieve symptoms, as can anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, and supplements like iron, calcium, and vitamin D. Avoiding certain foods like processed foods, high-fat foods, high-sugar foods, gluten, dairy, and alcohol are also helpful .
Consuming foods that contain both probiotics and probiotics can also be very helpful in promoting healthy bacteria in the gut.
“I stress the importance of a diet low in added sugars, as this can contribute to an imbalance in the gut microbiome and increase chronic inflammation,” Vaughn said. “I recommend a high-fiber diet of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, and whole grains because certain fibers can promote the growth and diversity of good microorganisms in our gut. Minimizing added sugars and consuming adequate fiber are also very beneficial for glycemic control.”