In the UK, green tea is fast becoming as ubiquitous as builder's brew with supermarket shelves devoted to various flavours and varieties. Much of this growth has been down to a belief in the health benefits to be derived from drinking it. Unfortunately, evidence from scientific studies has been thin on the ground.
However, a study published this week in the journal Arthritis Research & Therapy (doi:10.1186/ar2700) has shown that a compound present in green tea may inhibit a mechanism through which osteoarthritis develops. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that results in the painful loss of cartilage that cushions our joints.
Scientists from the University of South Carolina, examined the effect of a compound called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), found in green tea, on a class of molecules implicated in osteoarthritis, called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). It is possible that in cartilage cells, AGEs activate a protein that causes inflammation and a gene that stimulates breakdown of the cartilage.
The study found that the compound present in green tea significantly reduced the effects of the AGEs on the cartilage cells used in the laboratory.
Although the study is not a clinical trial that tested the effect of green tea on osteoarthritis in real people, it is still exciting research that should be of interest to tea-drinkers everywhere.