Green Tea: Nature's Insulin?
Is it possible that simply switching your breakfast beverage from coffee to green tea can have a drastic impact on your health? Researchers say yes.
This popular beverage has been in the news repeatedly in the past few years, touting bold claims of its antioxidants, and anti-cancer, anti-aging benefits. New research is pointing to another benefit; the moderation of blood sugar levels.
A specific ingredient in the tea, epigallocatechin (EGCG), has been linked to reducing blood sugar spikes in mice. "The spike in blood glucose level is about 50 percent lower than the increase in the blood glucose level of mice that were not fed EGCG," said Joshua Lambert, a Penn State food scientist.
The science behind these results makes sense. A specific enzyme that helps the body turn starch into sugar, alpha-amylase, is inhibited by the compound EGCG by up to 34 percent.
When starch is broken down in the body, it results in molecules of maltose and glucose. Glucose is absorbed directly into the blood steam as blood sugar, while maltose will be taken to the liver to be further broken down into glucose. EGCG's hindrance on this process maybe the direct cause of decrease blood sugar spikes.
"If what you are eating with your tea has starch in it then you might see that beneficial effect," Lambert said. "So, for example, if you have green tea with your bagel for breakfast, it may reduce the spike in blood glucose levels that you would normally get from that food." The research also noted that this benefit of the EGCG was not noted when it was consumed with glucose alone, as glucose does not have to go through the process that the EGCG inhibits.
"That may mean that if you add sugar into your green tea, that might negate the effect that the green tea will have on limiting the rise in blood glucose level." Lambert also noted that the greatest benefit was seen when consuming the EGCG and the starchy food simultaneously.
The amount of EGCG that was given to the mice was a relatively low dose, the equivalent of about one and a half cups of green tea. "The relatively low effective dose of EGCG makes a compelling case for studies in human subjects," the researchers said.
Coffee, the traditional morning beverage in the U.S., also touts numerous health benefits. However, if you wouldn't mind sacrificing one of your morning pick-me-ups with a green tea while you fuel up with your cereal or toast, switching to a cup of green tea might be worth a shot.
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