A dynamic review of Matcha benefits based on science
”Used by cultures all over the world, Green Tea is one of nature’s most beneficial and readily available substances,” said Dr. Gignac, who advocated the benefits of green tea powder, while he was practicing at Seattle Integrative Cancer Center. Matcha is the most popular powdered green tea, and a number of studies provide evidence of a wide range of green tea benefits. In this article, we focus on the 10 health benefits of Matcha Green Tea, with cancer prevention at the forefront.
Consuming it in powder form, as Ground Green Tea, provides many times more antioxidants than green tea brewed from bags or loose leaves because most of the antioxidants are not water-soluble and do not come out into the brewing water–so we don’t get them unless we eat the leaves. ~Mark A. Gignac, N.D., FABNO Seattle Integrative Cancer Center, Tukwila, WA
1. Prevent and fight cancer
Much scientific attention has been paid to the anti-cancer activity of green tea. PubMed.gov is a website run by the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health. When we entered “green tea apoptosis” as keywords in the search query, the website showed 551 studies. When we entered “green tea cancer” as keywords, the site came up with over 1,000 studies.
A number of scientific studies have shown evidence of EGCG’s anti-metastatic and anti-cancer activities at
numerous points regulating cancer cell growth, survival, and metastasis, including effects on the DNA,
RNA, and protein levels.
“Green tea constituent (-) epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) has shown remarkable cancer-preventive
and some cancer-therapeutic effects. This is partially because of its ability to induce apoptosis in cancer
cells without affecting normal cells.(*1)
Apoptosis is a programmed cell death. This anti-tumor mechanism of green tea has been observed
at various levels, including inhibition of cell-cycle progression, activation of caspases as enzyme helping
apoptosis, regulating activity of other enzymes such as mitogen-activated protein kinases, etc. (*2)
Also, green tea catechins prevented cancer cells from the penetration through the basement
membrane. “EGCG inhibited the adhesion of cancer cells to endothelial cell layers.”(*2)
In a separate study, “metastasis was inhibited via effects on urokinase and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs).”(*3)
EGCG inhibited the gene expression of MMPs as well.(*4)
2. Boost immunity
The immune system is complex and dynamic and so are the health benefits of matcha green tea. Green tea helps immunity in two ways and support both prevention and recovery from flu:
- Inactivating the virus’s ability to cause infection
- Stimulating the immune activity
In one study, 197 health care workers, who are exposed highly to the flu virus, were observed for 5 months, from November to April, in order to see the effects of catechins and theanine, beneficial compounds from green tea, on preventing flu. The incidence of clinically defined influenza infections was significantly lower in the catechin/theanine group (4.1%) than in the placebo group (13.1%). This result suggested green tea provided effective protection against contracting the illness while the exposure level was high.(*5)
Another study was done with 124 elderly nursing home residents to see if gargling with tea catechin was effective to prevent flu. After 3 months of observation, the incidence of influenza infection was significantly lower in the group who gargled with tea catechin solution three times a day (1.3%, one resident) than in the control group who gargled without tea catechin solution three times a day (10%, five residents). (*6)
A recent study observed an exposure to green tea, roasted green tea, and black tea significantly inactivated SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Oral ingestion of or gargling with tea may inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 in the oral cavity and pharynx, which may prevent infection by oral entry of the virus. (*7)
Normalize autoimmune disease
A study, done by Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, discovered green tea has a powerful ability to increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease. Their study suggests that this may be one of the underlying mechanisms of the versatile health benefits of green tea.
The report explained, “There are many types of cells that have different roles in the immune system, which is a delicate balancing act of attacking unwanted invaders without damaging normal cells. In autoimmune diseases, which can range from simple allergies to juvenile diabetes or even terminal conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, this process goes awry and the body mistakenly attacks itself.”
Some cells, including regulatory T cells, exist primarily to help control the immune system by turning off the overreacting system.
The number and proper function of those regulatory T cells are regulated by biological processes. In this study, OSU scientists experimented with a compound in green tea, a polyphenol called EGCG. They found it could cause a higher production of regulatory T cells, resulting in preventing autoimmune disease.
The laboratory studies showed that treatment with green tea EGCG significantly increased the numbers
and frequencies of regulatory T cells found in spleen and lymph nodes, and in the process helped to
normalize the immune response.
Also, scientists say that pharmaceutical drugs are available for the same roles but they have problems with toxicity. Unlike such pharmaceutical drugs, green tea can provide a long-term, sustainable way to achieve the goal without toxicity.*
*“Mechanism discovered for health benefit of green tea, new approach to autoimmune disease” News and Research Communications Oregon State University
3. Reduce blood sugar level that’s already high
A number of studies were done on the relationship between green tea ingestion and the improvement of blood sugar levels. Several mechanisms are involved in this action, and one of them is the improvement of insulin sensitivity, which results in rapid suppression of blood sugar levels.
A study was done in Japan with people who are diagnosed with “prediabetes.” In this study, prediabetic people were tested for their HbA1c to see their blood sugar level change.
An HbA1c of 6% or less is normal, over 6.1% is prediabetes, and over 6.5% is diabetes. The patients’ HbA1c
was 6.2%, prediabetes.
The subjects were divided into 2 groups. One group was given 7 cups of green tea a day, and the other was not. After 2 months, the HbA1c of the patients given green tea was improved to 5.9%, whereas the other group’s HbA1c didn’t change.
Then, the other group was given green tea for the next 2 months. The group’s HbA1c also improved to 5.9%.
The result suggests drinking green tea may keep blood sugar level that is already high under control and may prevent diabetes.*
57 million Americans over 20 years old have prediabetes, higher blood sugar level than normal but not high enough yet to indicate diabetes. The habitual drinking of green tea would help in the primary prevention of or improvement of type II diabetes.
“Significance of nutrients and green tea intake to prevent lifestyle-related diseases in some communities in Shizuoka” Yoko Fukino, University of Shizuoka, Japan
4. Lower heart disease risk
“Lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease may be as easy as drinking green tea. Studies suggest this light, aromatic tea may lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which may be responsible for the tea’s association with reduced risk of death from heart disease and stroke.
A number of studies have looked at possible links between green tea and cardiovascular disease.
A study of 40,530 Japanese adults found that participants who drank more than five cups of green tea a day had a 26% lower risk of death from a heart attack or stroke and a 16% lower risk of death from all causes than people who drank less than one cup of green tea a day.
Last year, a meta-analysis of observational studies — 13 conducted in green tea drinkers and five in black tea drinkers–found that people who drank the most green tea had a 28% lower risk of coronary artery disease than those who drank the least green tea. Black tea had no effect on heart risk.
Another 2011 meta-analysis of 14 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials found that green tea significantly lowered LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Many of the studies had been conducted with capsules containing catechins, the active polyphenols in green tea, rather than with the beverage itself.”
Harvard Heart Letter is published monthly by Harvard Health Publications, a division of Harvard Medical
5. Control weight
Weight control is one of the well-known health benefits of matcha green tea. Scientific researches have revealed green tea works hard to support your weight control effort. Many studies are finding green tea can modulate obesity and regulates fat metabolism. The study overserved the following mechanisms of how green tea can modulate fat metabolism as follows:
- Activating AMPK, a master energy sensor in each cell, and
- Modulating the expression of genes involved in metabolism, particularly in adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is a central metabolic organ that regulates whole-body energy homeostasis.*
This study suggests green tea is a therapeutic strategy to combat insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and obesity.
A study with 60 obese subjects concluded just switching from sugary drinks to green tea can bring you a tremendous benefit for two reasons:
- Green tea is a calorie free drink.
- Green tea antioxidants are known as “fat burners” as they increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation.**
*“Green tea extract activates AMPK and ameliorates white adipose tissue metabolic dysfunction induced by obesity” Andrea Rocha, Anaysa Paola Bolin, Claudia Andrea Lima Cardoso, Rosemari Otton, Eur J Nutr. 2016
**”Effectiveness of green tea on weight reduction in obese Thais: A randomized, controlled trial” Paradee Auvichayapat, Montira Prapochanug, Ortai Tunkamnerdthai, Bungorn Sripanidkulhcai, Physiology & behavior 2008
6. Fight viruses and bacteria
As we have seen in #2, adding matcha green tea or green tea powder to your diet may help prevent flu. Studies show that green tea prevents flu, when consumed regularly. Green tea catechins do two things: prevent infection and inhibit the growth and reproduction of viruses. And, green tea catechins protect against any type of flu virus. The flu vaccine each year just protects against that year’s most prevalent flu type.
It may be surprising, but improving your oral health is one of the health benefits of matcha green tea. Green tea catechins have antibacterial properties against bacteria causing cavities and periodontal disease. When you develop periodontal disease, plaque accumulates in “pockets” between teeth and gums. Bacteria growth in the pockets causes periodontitis–alveolar bone is absorbed, the gums degrade, and eventually, the teeth fall off.
Green tea prevents periodontitis by suppressing the growth of bacteria and the activity of collagen-degrading enzymes.*
In addition, many studies show green tea catechins have the ability to kill or prevent other viruses and bacteria, for example, Salmonella, food poisoning, Candida, etc.
“Catechins inhibit CXCL10 production from oncostatin M-stimulated human gingival fibroblasts” Yoshitaka Hosokawa, Ikuko Hosokawa, Kazumi Ozaki, Tadashi Nakanishi, Hideaki Nakae, Takashi Matsuo, J Nutra Biochem. 2010
7. Protect skin
The skin is the weakest and fastest aging cell of all in the body. And green tea helps improve skin health in two ways:
- Antioxidants such as polyphenols in green tea neutralize free radicals and help reduce or prevent some of the damage caused. Free radicals can damage important cell molecules, such as DNA and lipids, and other parts of the cell.
- Antioxidants delay collagen aging.*
Green tea also works topically. Since matcha is a powder form, it is easily made into a green paste, which can be applied directly to the skin. Organically grown tea leaves are recommended as they can be completely inoculated.
The below photos show the immediate effect of the “matcha mask.” The inflamed acne was significantly calmed down after just one application. Click the below link to see how to make the “matcha honey mask.” And ease of use is another benefit of matcha green tea.
“Green Tea Extract Suppresses the Age-Related Increase in Collagen Crosslinking and Fluorescent Products in C57BL/6 Mice” Kathryn Rutter, David R. Sell, Nalani Fraser, Mark Obrenovich, Michael Zito, Pamela Starke-Reed, Vincent M. Monnier, Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2003
8. Improve cognitive health
Improves brain function
Researchers in Switzerland found green tea improves cognitive function by enhancing working memory and task performance.
They concluded green tea increases the connectivity among frontal and parietal brain regions during working
memory processing. This result suggests green tea may be effective to treat cognitive impairments in psychiatric disorders such as dementia.*
In terms of dosage, there is no established amount. However, epidemiological research was done with Japanese elderly people who are older than 70. In the study, the people were divided into two groups; one group who drank more than two cups of green tea a day and the other group who consumed less than three cups of green tea a week. The result showed the prevalence of dementia in the group who drank more green tea is half of that of the other group, suggesting the preventive action of green tea against dementia.**
*“Green tea extract enhances parieto-frontal connectivity during working memory processing” Andre Schmidt, Felix Hammann, Bettina Wolnerhanssen, Anne Christin Meyer-Gerspach, Psychopharmacology 2014
**”Green tea consumption and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study from the Tsurugaya Project 1” Kuriyama S et al., Am J Clin Nutr. 2006
Protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
In Alzheimer’s disease, the amyloid-β (Aβ) protein is accumulated in the brain. EGCG was shown to decrease the Aβ accumulation in an Alzheimer’s disease model mouse. Also, EGCG is effective to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by stabilizing mitochondria, removing excess iron, and forming new neurons. Green tea also supports brain functions by maintaining healthy blood vessels.*
Recent research has also shown green tea compounds may help maintain positive mood states and protect against Parkinson’s disease and other brain disorders by boosting the availability of dopamine in the areas where it is needed.**
Dopamine is a signaling substance in the brain circuits that are crucial to creating positive mood states. It is involved in transmitting signals of reward and motivation and in helping muscles move smoothly. Dopamine production goes awry in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, leading to the muscle rigidity and tremors associated with the disorder. The study suggests green tea can help to boost dopamine when your system needs it.
*”Green Tea Intake and Risks for Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review” Saki Kakutani, Hiroshi Watanabe, Norihito Murayama, Nutrients 2019
**”Chemicals in a Japanese flower and green tea leaves prevent brain cell death” Dr. Raymond Swanson, UCSF 2001
9. Fight off anxiety and depression
Dynamic support from collective effects of constituents in tea
When stress becomes prolonged and overwhelming, the risk of a mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, increases. Chronic stress can also impair memory, lead to weight gain and even accelerate aging.
Recent studies have noted the biochemical and neurobiological effects of green tea consumption on reducing the risk of depression from various aspects.
Some studies observed green tea helps the mental health goal by enhancing gut health. other studies found green tea restoring stress-responsive hormone balance. And additional studies found green tea’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects help to reduce the risk of depression.*
The report concludes tea includes a number of constituents, which function collectively to reduce the risk of depression.
Habitual, more frequent consumption of green tea was associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in the community-dwelling older population.**
*”Mechanisms Underlying the Anti-Depressive Effects of Regular Tea Consumption” Dylan O’Neill Rothenberg, Lingyun Zhang, Nutrition 2019
**“Green tea consumption is associated with depressive symptoms in the elderly” Kaijun Niu, Atushi Hozawa, Shinichi Kuriyama, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009
Brainwaves reveal beneficial effects of green tea
L-Theanine (pronounced “el-thee-ah-nyn”) is a natural relaxant found. Almost exclusively with green tea. It causes alpha waves in the brain, producing the following effects: meditation. But it does not cause drowsiness. In addition, L-Theanine is beneficial to brain health.
In addition to L-theanine, EGCG, one of the most potent constituents of green tea, was observed to play a significant role in reducing stress. The researchers observed a significant increase in alpha, beta, and theta brainwaves in the subjects who were provided with EGCG. Alpha brainwaves are associated with relaxation, beta brainwaves with engagement, and theta brainwaves show up when you are “zoned-in” with a pilot mode. In comparison to the placebo, the group provided with EGCG treatment also increased self-rated calmness and reduced self-rated stress.*
The relationship between mood and food is extremely complicating and mechanisms are not well understood yet. No one food can take you to permanent bliss, but nutrition along with other mindful choices is absolutely important for coping with stress. However, scientific evidence is supporting taking a mindful, tea break at least once a day will support your emotional well-being.
As Rikyu, the historic Tea Master of Japan said: “Taste all the joy of being alive now in this one simple cup of tea!”
*”Acute neurocognitive effects of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)” Andrew Scholey, Luke A Downey, Joseph Ciorciari, Andrew Pipingas, Appetite 2012
10. Support healthy hormone balance
Around age 50, both men and women go through the life stage where sex hormone balance is not in harmony, called “estrogen dominance. This imbalance could cause symptoms, such as mood swings and weight gain (especially belly fat). Also, it increases the risk of diseases such as hormone-related cancers: endometrial cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, heart attack, and stroke.
This imbalance starts before menopause. Male menopause is called Andropause, the gradual decrease of the male hormone, Testosterone, and it leads to estrogen dominance.
Research shows daily green tea intake increased metabolism excessive estrogen for postmenopausal women, compared to green tea intake of one cup or less per week.
This result suggests a daily intake of green tea help to normalize estrogen dominance and to reduce the risk of hormone-related cancer.
Also, this study found the levels of caffeine consumption did not affect estrogen metabolism. And another interesting discovery was that black tea consumption did not produce this positive effect on estrogen levels.
If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, your doctor may recommend a low caffeine lifestyle.
“Green tea intake is associated with urinary estrogen profiles in Japanese-American women” Barbara J Fuhrman, Ruth M Pfeiffer, Anna H Wu, Xia Xu, Nutra J 2013
Adverse effect of matcha
The health benefits of matcha green tea holistically work to promote your health. However, there is one concern: Caffeine–especially with matcha. It is true that matcha offers you more antioxidants than brewed tea as you ingest the whole leaf–but, ironically, it is also high in caffeine. Matcha is grown shade and consequently, it makes the most caffeinated green tea. The caffeine amount in one serving could be 35 to 70mg or more, depending on the grade and amount of the powder you use.
Many of the studies suggest long-time, habitual, and frequent consumption of green tea is the key to get the health benefits of matcha green tea. However, the high dose of caffeine in matcha can become a huge barrier for some people who prefer not to intake caffeine.
If you are one of the folks who lead low or no caffeine diet, here is good news for you: SEI MEE TEA offers an alternative to matcha. This “decaf matcha” is high in antioxidants with little caffeine. The fine powder is great to make a comforting cup of tea, hot or cold, and to mix in your favorite smoothies.