Rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, green tea has been found to fight the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract. In addition, population-based research shows that people who sip green tea regularly may be more likely to have healthy cholesterol levels.
Benefits of Green Tea on Cholesterol
Green tea is "possibly effective" for decreasing high levels of cholesterol, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). For a 2007 report published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, scientists sized up the available research on green tea and cardiovascular health and found that green may help keep cholesterol in check. Several short-term clinical trials included in the review determined that drinking green tea may protect against post-meal increases in blood fats among people with high cholesterol.
One of the largest population-based studies on green tea and cholesterol was published in the Annals of Epidemiology in 2002. Looking at data on 13,916 Japanese adults (ages 40 to 69), the study's authors found that those who drank green tea daily had significantly lower cholesterol levels.
Some research also suggests that using green tea supplements may help reduce cholesterol levels. In a 2003 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, for instance, researchers assigned 240 men and women with mildly to moderately elevated cholesterol to 12 weeks of treatment with either a placebo or a green tea capsule enriched with theaflavin (an antioxidant found naturally in black tea). Results revealed that the green tea supplement helped lower participants' levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
Using Green Tea to Lower Cholesterol
You may need to drink up to 10 cups of green tea daily in order to experience a significant cholesterol-lowering effect, according to the NIH. But while green tea is likely safe for most adults, the NIH warns that drinking more than five cups per day may lead to caffeine-related side effects (such as headache, nervousness, sleep problems, irregular heartbeat, and heartburn).
When Should You Use It?
Although it's too soon to recommend green tea as a treatment for high cholesterol, drinking green tea in moderation may enhance your overall health to some degree. In order to achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it's important to follow a healthy diet (low in saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol), maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. If you're considering the use of green tea supplements in treatment of high cholesterol (or any other condition), make sure to consult your physician before starting your supplement regimen.
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Maron DJ, Lu GP, Cai NS, Wu ZG, Li YH, Chen H, Zhu JQ, Jin XJ, Wouters BC, Zhao J. "Cholesterol-lowering effect of a theaflavin-enriched green tea extract: a randomized controlled trial." Arch Intern Med. 2003 Jun 23;163(12):1448-53.
National Institutes of Health. "Green tea: MedlinePlus Supplements". January 2011.
Tokunaga S, White IR, Frost C, Tanaka K, Kono S, Tokudome S, Akamatsu T, Moriyama T, Zakouji H. "Green tea consumption and serum lipids and lipoproteins in a population of healthy workers in Japan." Ann Epidemiol. 2002 Apr;12(3):157-65.