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Green tea extract fights cancer, but this supplement makes it more effective

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By David Liu PHD

Sunday April 15, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- Green tea, which has potent antioxidants called flavonoids such as catechins,  is known to be able to help fight cancer as laboratory studies by Rutgers University cancer researchers C.S. Yang and colleagues show that green tea extract can promote apoptosis, programmed cell death, which is missing in cancer cells.

However, green tea polyphenols, which are the active ingredients in green tea that help fight cancer may fight cancer even more effectively when quercetin is used together  because quercetin can increase the levels of green tea polyphenols in cancer cells and decrease methylation of their anticancer compounds, which would deactivate the anticancer agents.

The study led by P. Wang of University of California Los Angeless found that mice with severe combined immunodeficiency given brewed green tea and a diet supplemented with 0.4 percent quercetin alone or in combination for 2 weeks had a 2 to 3 times increase of total and non-methylated epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG in the lung and kidney and an increasing trend in the liver.

The study also found that quercetin increased the cellular adsorption of EGCG four times in lung cancer cells, 2 times in kidney cancer cells while no significant increase was observed in liver cancer cells.  And quercetin decreased methylation of green tea polyphenols, which would otherwise limit their chemopreventive potential.

This study suggests that in order to have a maximum anticancer effect, green tea or green tea extract should be used together with quercetin.

Catechins in green tea are found more powerful than vitamin C and E in preventing cells from oxidative damage and studies have associated consuming green tea with reduced risk for a number of cancers including skin cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer and bladder cancer.

Additional green tea benefits include a reduced risk for heart disease. It has been found that antioxidants in green tea block the oxidation of bad cholesterol  and increase good cholesterol and improve artery function.  Green tea can lower hypertension risk by 45 to 65% as a Chinese study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found.  Green tea may also help weight loss.

Food consumers should be aware that commercially available green tea drinks may not contain any polyphenols, according to at least one study which analysed green tea EGCG in many brands of green tea drinks on the market and found many brands had low levels of this active chemopreventative or had no polyphenols at all.

Luckily, green tea pills are available as dietary supplements.  Food consumers are encouraged to use both green tea extract and quercetin supplements together as the current study indicates such a combination may deliver a maximum preventive effect against cancer.

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