Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is present in the body. While there are many dangers to having high levels in the bloodstream, it does play an important role in well-being, acting to form cell membranes and some hormones. In excess however it can accumulate along artery walls. Along with other substances circulating through the blood it forms plaque, the hard deposits which eventually clog arteries, inhibiting the healthy flow of blood and increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease. This condition is known as atherosclerosis.
Taking measures to lower cholesterol and to maintain normal levels is so important not only for heart health but for overall well-being. Fortunately there are many natural solutions which may help lower cholesterol, such as eating a high-fiber diet or drinking green tea. The potential benefits for green tea in particular have been researched, studied, and talked about for years. What are the facts behind the claim that drinking green tea lowers cholesterol? Why would a cup of tea have any effect on cholesterol? Can green tea help to prevent heart disease?
The Power of Green Tea
Why is green tea such an important food for improving cholesterol levels? It is very high in antioxidants, from catechins to quercetin. Antioxidants help to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. This is important for preventing plaque build-up because it is oxidized LDL cholesterol that becomes sticky and adheres to artery walls.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center research has repeatedly shown that there is a link between green tea consumption and a reduced risk for atherosclerosis. Drinking green tea appears to reduce total levels of cholesterol and raise levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. According to an animal study it is also possible that some of the antioxidants in green tea block the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines, thus encouraging the elimination of some of this substance. A study conducted by the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2003 concluded that green tea extract, enriched with an antioxidant that is found in high amount in black tea, theaflavin, is an effective remedy for lowering cholesterol in conjunction with a diet low in saturated fats.
Does Green Tea Prevent Heart Disease?
Despite the positive research, high levels of beneficial antioxidants, and healing potential, green tea is not recognized by the FDA as a preventative treatment for heart disease. Why is this? While there is a lot of research to support the health benefits of green tea, from lowering cholesterol to increasing metabolism and helping to prevent some cancers, there is not enough conclusive evidence to make a
claim of definite benefits. Also, some studies have suggested that a person would have to drink several cups a day to experience many of the benefits.
Is it true that drinking green tea lowers cholesterol? Should you drink it to reduce your cholesterol levels, thus improving cardiovascular health? Will consumption prevent heart disease, and maybe even some forms of cancer as well? Green tea is clearly a beneficial beverage, but as with many natural aids to well-being, it can only be so effective alone. Having one to three cups of green tea a day while also eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, and making wise lifestyle choices is likely to improve your well-being and possibly even prevent chronic illnesses. Green tea is certainly a food to enhance health and there is nothing to lose from drinking it regularly. It is not a cure-all, but rather a valuable part of a healthy way of life.
American Heart Association <https://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4488>
University of Maryland Medical Center <https://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/green-tea-000255.htm>
"Cholesterol-lowering effect of a theaflavin-enriched green tea extract: a randomized control trial." (Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center) <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12824094>
Balch, Phyllis A. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
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photo by Charmaine Porgie
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