Green tea: Is it really good for you?

Posted May 4, 2007

Green tea has become the hot new trend in healthy living, though it may just be a cultural trend as some of its supposed health benefits are unconfirmed.

From green tea gum to frappuccinos, lotions and ointments, it’s hip today not only to go environmentally green, but to drink green as well.

“It’s a cultural phenomena,” Paul Wegener, consultant for the tea company Mitsui Norin, said.

Clinical tests have shown that drinking green tea may be good for the body and overall health.

These supposed benefits are the reason green tea is growing in popularity. Companies are marketing many of their products with the words “green tea” to pull in big bucks, but some believe the evidence for major health benefits from tea is scarce.

Sophomore communications major Josie Fraus thinks that health must be the reason people are drinking green tea since it doesn’t taste all that great.

Green tea’s supposed health benefits come from the naturally occurring chemicals, or antioxidants, in green tea.

These antioxidants are called polyphenols or catechins.

During the early 1980s in Japan, the Mitsui Norin tea company hired scientist Yukihiko Hara to do research on green tea.

He purified different parts of the tea and found that polyphenol was the most active.

He set up a factory next to the lab so that he could purify the catechins and distribute the concentrated extracts to different scientists.

“They started to find out that this tea is powerful stuff,” Wegener said.

Although it has the possibility of having an effect on cancer, and cultures who drink green tea have a lower rate of certain diseases than others, there is no solid evidence to prove the benefits of green tea, Wegener said.

“It’s such a buzz, but there’s nothing to back it up,” Wegener said.

Wegener feels that pop culture’s craze over health has really pushed green tea into the spotlight, although, in terms of health benefits, they are few and far between.

Even so, medications are still being made from this tea to cure ailments. It is now being used in a topical ointment for genital warts.

Wegener said that more money is spent on genital wart treatments than any other STD besides AIDS.

In addition to being used in medications, green tea is also used to help with weight loss.

Some clinical tests have proven that green tea extract pills can help people lose and keep off ten pounds of belly fat. One pill equals about four cups of brewed tea.

“That’s part of the reason Japanese (people) are skinnier than we are,” Wegener said.

Some Japanese people drink about 10 to 15 cups of green tea a day, Wegener said.

Studies in Japan have shown that those who drink more tea are less likely to get stomach cancer, but it has not yet been proven that green tea is responsible for this. Tests are being done to see if green tea can prevent many types of cancer and blood diseases.

“We don’t know yet if green tea can make a difference or not,” Wegener said.

Even though its use in different products has become more popular, it is not certain that green tea itself will become more popular.

“I think it was trying to be (popular), but I don’t think it ever will be,” senior business administration major Mercy-Faith Kimbwala said.

Kimbwala drinks green tea because she heard that it is good for the skin.

When green tea bags are in the tea container at Davenport, she grabs handfuls of them and puts them in her purse because green tea isn’t always offered.

She has been drinking it for about four or five years.

Faus started drinking green tea this year. She drinks it for the antioxidants.

But for students who live on campus and don’t have too many beverage options at Davenport, green tea may be a solution.

“I don’t like to drink soda a lot because it’s not good for you,” Faus said.

Although green tea is not proven to completely revitalize a person’s health and is more of a social trend rather than an actual life changing solution, it is still a great alternative to soda.

And, for that reason, it can have health benefits.

So, next time the soda machines at Davenport become overwhelming, grab a package of green tea, because at least it’s better than soda.

Sher Porter can be reached at sporter4@ulv.edu.

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