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More research trumpets the goodness of green tea

Published July 30. 2011 09:01AM

You probably know that there are 22 amino acids found in animals, that 14 can be synthesized from other elements in the human the body, that eight can't and need to be consumed, and that chains of them create proteins, the building blocks of the body.

But how many of them can you name? Arginine? Ornithine? Lysine, maybe?

And for how many can you cite what they specifically do?

That's why you should commit the name theanine to memory. It's an amino acid that does far more for the body than just build protein. It helps your body do things you want your body to do.

Like relax and sleep better.

Give a person theanine and an EEG, and the brain scan looks like a monk's during meditation. The brain's level of alpha waves, the ones that promote relaxation, increase.

Theanine does so without creating a feeling of sleepiness, yet it aids the sleeping state. While it doesn't cause subjects in scientific studies to sleep longer, it improves their quality of sleep so significantly that subjects feel as if they spent more time sleeping than they really did.

Theanine also helps battle stress and disease.

One study where 12 college students on four different occasions were given lengthy math problems designed to create stress stress physically verified by increased heart rate and production of immunoglobulin A a supplement of 200 mg of theanine before or during the test reduced perceived stress significantly.

Ingestion of theanine also activates the gamma-delta T immune cells that battle bacterial, viral, parasitic, and fungal infections.

Combine all these potential positives with the fact that the Japanese have been fortifying foods and drinks with theanine for years, and it would not be surprising for a health and fitness column to suggest that you begin using 100 mg to 200 mg of theanine as a daily supplement.

But this one will not.

Instead, this one will encourage you to do something it's encouraged you to do many time before: drink green tea regularly. Not only is theanine present in green tea, but dozens of antioxidants are also. And these antioxidants also help your body do things you want your body to do.

Like inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.

While prior studies have shown a correlation between green tea consumption and a reduced risk of certain forms of cancer, a study published earlier this year in the journal Phytomedicine explains why. When green tea is digested by the body, the digestive enzymes along with some of the antioxidants in green tea create a compound that actually has greater anticancer properties than either the digestive enzymes or the antioxidants alone. Apply this compound to tumorous cells in a laboratory setting and growth slows significantly, according to Dr. Ed Okello, Newcastle University's executive director of the university's Medicinal Plant and Research Group that performed the study.

Just as significantly, the study found this same digested green tea compound blocks the development of what seems to be the beginning of Alzheimer's disease. It does so by binding with beta-amyloid, a plaque-like protein that diminishes the brain damaging neurons, the cells that run your nervous system, and by protecting the synapses, the regions where nerve impulses pass from one nerve cell to the other.

But drinking green tea protects your outside as well as your insides.

In a study first published online in April in the Journal of Nutrition, German researchers gave 60 women the equivalent of laboratory-induced sun burn and then checked the skin for redness, elasticity, roughness, density, hydration, blood flow, and oxygen saturation. They also took blood samples as a way to determine the amount of antioxidants present.

After that, half the group received a green tea beverage daily and half did not. All received the laboratory-induced sun burn and blood test six weeks and then 12 weeks into the experiment.

When compared to their first laboratory-induced sunburn, those drinking the green tea beverage daily, experienced 16 percent redness after six weeks and 25 percent less after 12. This suggests that the antioxidants in the green tea beverage provided some degree of sun protection.

Furthermore, when compared to the control group drinking a placebo, skin elasticity, density hydration, blood flow, and oxygen saturation in the green tea group were better.

Where prior studies with animals have shown that compounds in green tea can prevent diabetes, a study published in the June 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition found that epicatechin, one of the many antioxidants found in green tea, increased the life span of five-week-old diabetic mice.

In 15 weeks, 50 percent of the diabetic mice not given water containing 0.25 percent of epicatechin had died. But in the group of diabetic mice that had been getting a daily dose of epicatechin, only 8.4 percent had died in the same amount of time.

The mice receiving epicatechin also were found to have less liver degeneration, a decrease in LDL cholesterol, fewer markers of inflammation, and more production of the natural antioxidants that both mice and humans produce, glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

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