Health Benefits of Green Tea: Facts & Fictions

Green tea probably won’t prevent cancer. But there are many other health benefits of green tea. Drink 3 or 4 cups per day and you’ll burn more fat, lose weight, lower your cholesterol, and boost your workout endurance. Go brew a cup right now!

Green tea is full of health benefits. But not everything you’ve heard is true.

Green tea has been used as a medicine for thousands of years in China. Now it’s also become very popular in the west. But are there really any health benefits in green tea?

Yes, absolutely!

In the last 10 years, researchers from around the world have published over 3,500 studies looking at the benefits of green tea. And many studies do show that green tea is full of health benefits!

Look at the table below to separate the fact from the fiction, and continue reading to get the details.

Green Tea Health Benefits:
Facts and Fictions
Health Benefit Is It True? More Info
References and Sources
Lower Your Bad Cholesterol yes details
Reduce Heart Disease Risk yes details
Lower Risk of High Blood Pressure yes details
Fight Cancer probably not details
Burn Fat and Lose Weight yes details
Prevent Type 2 Diabetes probably details
Anti-Aging Skin Protection maybe details
Prevent the Flu probably details
Boost Memory and Prevent Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s probably details
Prevent Cavities and Gum Disease yes details
Improve Exercise Endurance probably details

What Makes Green Tea So Healthy?

So, why is green tea so healthy in the first place? And why is it any better than other teas?

All tea — except for herbal tea — is made from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. But unlike black or oolong tea, green tea leaves are not fermented before they are dried. This gives it very high concentrations of the naturally occurring, powerful antioxidants that are found in the fresh leaves of the tea plant.

The most abundant antioxidant in green tea is a catechin called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). It’s the EGCG antioxidant that gives green tea most of its health benefits, and that’s the specific ingredient that’s gotten the most attention in scientific studies.

Some of the health benefits also come from other compounds, like naturally occurring caffeine and other antioxidants. And in some cases, researchers have found that the combination of EGCG with caffeine and other ingredients provide more health benefits than the EGCG alone.

So, it’s good for you. But exactly what are all the health benefits of green tea? Continue reading and we’ll look at each benefit in detail.

Green Tea Lowers Your Bad Cholesterol

Research shows that drinking green tea helps lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol without hurting your good (HDL) cholesterol. That’s great news for your cardiovascular health!

This finding is backed up by many studies. For example, University of Oklahoma researchers looking at the effects of green tea on 35 obese patients found that drinking 4 cups of green tea per day lowered their LDL cholesterol. It also helped them lose weight and lower their BMI!

Looking at larger studies of more general populations, research published in a 2011 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found the same results. Chinese researchers performed an analysis of 14 prior studies with 1,136 subjects and concluded that drinking green tea or taking green tea supplements “resulted in significant reductions in LDL-cholesterol concentrations.” And they found no effect on HDL (good) cholesterol.

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Reduce Risk of Dying From Heart Attack or Stroke

Lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease is yet another one of the many green tea benefits.

A large Japanese study found that drinking at least 5 cups of green tea per day reduced the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 26 percent! More specifically, heart attack risk was reduced by 14 percent and the risk of stroke was reduced by a whopping 37 percent.

Green Tea Reduces Risk of Heart Disease

Drinking green tea every day reduces your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

The results were actually much better for women than for men. Women cut their risks of heart attack and stroke by 23 percent and 42 percent, respectively, while men cut their risks by only 9 percent for heart attacks and 35 percent for strokes.

The study, published in 2006, followed over 40,000 subjects in northeastern Japan for up to 11 years. Sometimes studies such as this can give misleading results because there may be other factors — called confounding variables — that contribute to the perceived benefits.

For example, green tea drinkers in the U.S. are likely to be more health conscious than non-tea drinkers, so in addition to drinking green tea, they likely also make other healthy choices that are also likely benefit their health.

That makes it hard to know if their improved health is caused by the health benefits of green tea or caused by something else they are doing.

However, the Japanese study is important because over 80 percent of the population in northeastern Japan drinks green tea. So, it’s unlikely that the study participants were intentionally drinking green tea for their health, and all participants were equally likely to have similar diets. So there is a smaller risk of confounding factors that might unintentionally skew the results.

This same concept of “confounding variables” may also explain why women got greater benefits than men. The men were much more likely to smoke than the women, and smoking increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

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Lowers Risk of High Blood Pressure

Helping you avoid high blood pressure may be one of the ways that green tea reduces your risk of dying from heart disease. Although more research is needed to confirm the findings, studies show that drinking even a small amount of green tea significantly reduces your risk of developing hypertension (another name for high blood pressure).

Researchers in Taiwan studied over 1,500 adult subjects and found that the risk of developing high blood pressure dropped by 46 percent for people who drank half a cup of green tea per day for at least a year. Study participants who drank two and half cups of green tea per day saw a 65 percent decrease! There was no additional gain for subjects who regularly drank green tea for more than one year. (So start today!)

As with many human studies, confounding variables such as lifestyle choices and eating habits can skew the results. However, the Taiwanese researchers adjusted for a wide range of confounding factors including “age, sex, socioeconomic status, family history of hypertension, body mass index, waist-hip ratio, lifestyle factors (total physical activity, high sodium intake, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and coffee drinking), and dietary factors (vegetable, fruit, unrefined grain, fish, milk, visible-fat food, and deep fried food intake).” That makes this study quite comprehensive.

So, while more studies with larger populations are required to confirm these results, it looks very likely that drinking green tea lowers your risk of developing high blood pressure.

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Does Green Tea Fight Cancer?

Can green tea help prevent or fight cancer? This is one of the most popularized health benefits of green tea. Many studies have looked into green tea’s cancer fighting properties, and some studies have actually found very positive results.

Unfortunately, most research has been conducted in the laboratory using mice, rats, or test tubes — but not humans. So, while the results are promising, currently there is no compelling evidence that green tea really fights or prevents cancer in humans.

Green Tea Has Powerful Antioxidants

Green tea leaves are packed full of powerful antioxidants that help keep your healthy. The most important one is a catechin called EGCG.

In the laboratory, green tea has been found to prevent or fight a wide range of cancers occurring in many organs including the colon, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, pancreas, breast, prostate, lung, and skin. Both animal and test tube studies show that EGCG and other compounds in green tea have the ability to attack pre-cancerous cells, cancer cells, and related proteins, thereby preventing, slowing down, or even killing cancer cells.

Unfortunately, human studies have not been conclusive. For example, the large, comprehensive 2006 Japanese study mentioned above found that green tea had no effect on colorectal, gastric or lung cancer. A few other human studies have shown some cancer benefits in humans for stomach, prostate, breast, lung, and other cancers, but those studies have generally been smaller, less reliable, and more prone to confounding factors.

Many researchers think the discrepancy between the laboratory and human studies is due to dosage and delivery. The laboratory studies on animals tend to use very high doses of the EGCG catechin or green tea extracts, sometimes using intravenous injections. And the test tube studies usually apply the EGCG or green tea directly to the organ cells. In real life, it would be very difficult (and possibly unhealthy) to consume enough green tea to match these levels and deliver the EGCG to the affected organs.

While promising results have been seen in the lab, the verdict is still out and further study on humans is needed. Currently, neither the National Cancer Institute nor the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend drinking green tea to fight or prevent any kind of cancer. But, they also don’t recommends avoiding green tea. So while it may not help fight cancer, you should feel free to drink it for all the other green tea health benefits.

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Green Tea Helps You Lose Weight

Numerous studies have shown that green tea boosts your metabolism and helps you burn fat and lose weight. You’ll only lose about one pound per month, but that’s twelve pounds a year, which is pretty good.

This is a popular topic, so we’ve written an entire article that goes into all the details about this surprising green tea benefit: How To Use Green Tea For Weight Loss.

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Green Tea May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

While the evidence is not yet conclusive, it seems likely that green tea can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Several laboratory studies in both test tubes and mice have shown that the compounds in green tea can help regulate glucose levels and may therefore help prevent diabetes.

The results of human studies are not as clear. However, in 2009, Chinese researchers analyzed the results of nine previous human studies that involved over 324,000 subjects over a period ranging from 5 to 18 years. The study concluded that “participants who drank four or more cups of tea per day had a 20% lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those who drank less or none.”

The researchers warned that the study had some limitations and they suggested that more research on humans was needed to confirm a positive link between green tea and a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes. But these initial findings are very encouraging.

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Anti-Aging Skin Protection From Sun Damage

Studies suggest that drinking green tea will actually help protect your skin from the damage and aging caused by exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. The catch? You’d need to drink eight to twelve cups of tea each day, which might be unhealthy for you.

In study published in a 2011 edition of The Journal of Nutrition, German researchers gave 60 female volunteers either a drink with a massive dose of green tea catechins or a placebo beverage. The women were exposed to simulated sun UV rays.

After 12 weeks, the women who got the green tea drink had 25 percent less skin reddening than those that got the placebo. And, they had noticeably improved skin, including less roughness and scaling and more elasticity, density, moisture, and blood flow.

Green Tea May Prevent the Flu and Fight the Aging Effects of the Sun

More research is needed. But initial results show that green tea may lower your risk of getting the flu. And it may help fight the signs of aging caused by sun exposure.

The only problem with the study is the massive dose of green tea catechins that they used — roughly eight to twelve cups worth of green tea. Most studies recommend three to four cups of green tea per day, so it’s possible that drinking ten to twelve cups may have negative long term health effects.

In this case, more study is needed to see if lower, more reasonable doses of green tea have the same anti-aging, sun-protection benefits for your skin.

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Green Tea Can Prevent the Flu

Previous laboratory studies have shown that the primary green tea catechin, EGCG, can dramatically slow down the spread of flu viruses in test tube experiments. And a recent study shows that drinking green tea can offer humans real protection from the flu.

In the study, Japanese researchers gave some healthcare workers daily green tea supplements equivalent to drinking three to four cups of tea. They tracked the workers for five months of flu season and counted the cases of influenza. Of the workers who got the supplements, only 4 percent got the flu, compared to 13 percent of workers who were given placebo.

That’s a 70 percent reduction in the risk of catching the flu! This study only involved about 200 people, so more research is needed here. But this looks like another one of the very promising health benefits of green tea. And once again, three to four cups of tea per day seems to be the magic number.

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Brain Power: Boost Memory and Learning, Prevent Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Various studies suggest that drinking green tea can boost your brain power and help protect you from age-related mental decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. Many of these studies were done in test tubes or using mice, so some more research on human subjects is needed. But there have been a few human studies that show green tea benefits for your brain.

Laboratory studies have shown that green tea’s most abundant catechin, EGCG, helps prevent or counter many of the factors believed to cause age-related degenerative diseases in the brain. EGCG has been shown to protect brain cells by helping to remove iron and free radicals, promoting the activity of beneficial antioxidant enzymes, and reducing the formation of harmful proteins.

A Chinese study published in the August 2012 Molecular Nutrition & Food Research journal found that EGCG not only protects against degenerative mental diseases, but that it actually boosts learning and memory. Researchers treated mice with a daily dose of EGCG equivalent to about 16 cups of green tea. (Yes, that’s a lot!) They tested the mice and trained them to find objects in mazes.

The researchers found that the EGCG mice performed better and faster than untreated mice, and that their brains had increased the production of neural stem brain cells in the hippocampus. That’s the part of the brain that moves information from short-term to long-term memory, and explains why the mice had enhanced memory and improved learning.

Green Tea May Boost Memory and Prevent Dementia

Brain Power: early research suggests that green tea may boost memory and learning. It may also prevent dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

People are not mice, and no one should drink 16 cups of green tea each day. But the results are still very promising. And luckily, there are some human studies that show positive results from drinking more realistic amounts of green tea.

In one of the few human studies on this topic, Japanese researchers studied more than 1,000 subjects over the age of 70 and compared their self-reported green tea consumption with their state of mental capacity. Those who drank more than two cups of green tea per day had a 64 percent lower risk of suffering from mental decline than those who drank less than three cups per week. Wow!

Another human study that looked specifically at Parkinson’s disease found that people who drank three or more cups of tea per day had a 59 percent lower risk of developing the disease. The Finnish study looked at over 29,000 people over a period averaging almost 13 years, and it made adjustments for confounding factors such as age, BMI, and lifestyle choices. This study looked at tea in general, so even better results should be expected from drinking green tea, since it has a much higher concentration of antioxidant catechins.

So, while more research is needed on human subjects, it looks like green tea does boost your brain power and protect you from mental decline.

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Green Tea and Oral Health

Believe it or not, green tea is even good for the health of your teeth and gums!

The EGCG catechin found in green tea has been shown to have strong antimicrobial properties, and it slows down and kills the bacteria that cause both tooth decay (cavities) and periodontal disease (gum disease).

And, green tea (and all non-herbal teas) contain fluoride, which dentists recommend to help fight cavities. Most studies show that green tea contains about the same amount of fluoride as that found in most U.S. public water supplies; although recent research at the Medical College of Georgia has shown that it may contain somewhat more fluoride.

Ingesting too much fluoride can cause bone loss. But drinking three to four cups per day will keep your fluoride intake well within safe levels, even at the fluoride levels found in the Georgia research. And, it will help keep your teeth and gums healthy!

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Increase Exercise Endurance

Green tea also appears to boost your exercise endurance by causing your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.

During an aerobic workout like running, biking or swimming, you burn carbohydrates stored in your muscles. Lactic acid builds up in your muscles as these carbs are depleted. It’s the lactic acid that creates fatigue and makes your muscles sore.

Green Tea Boost Exercise Endurance

Drinking green tea will likely boost your exercise endurance. The tea causes your body to burn fat instead of carbs, which delays your fatigue.

If you regularly drink three to four cups of green tea per day, the EGCG catechins in the tea help delay this lactic acid response by causing your muscles to burn more fat than carbs, and that boosts your exercise endurance. As a bonus, you are also burning more fat, which can help you lose weight!

(Read more about the weight loss benefits in our article How To Use Green Tea For Weight Loss)

Japanese researchers initially found these results by studying mice. They found mice increased their swimming endurance by 24 percent when they were regularly given green tea extracts. They found that running endurance increased by 30%. The researchers attributed the increased endurance to the green tea catechin’s ability to promote fat burning during exercise.

Although more detailed test are needed to confirm similar results in humans, a small 2011 study showed that green tea does have the same fat burning effects during exercise. Japanese researchers tested 12 healthy men and gave half of them daily green tea extracts equivalent to drinking about 3 cups. They confirmed that after moderately intense exercise, those who had the green tea had burned significantly more fat than the non-tea group.

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How Much Tea Is In A Cup?

We keep talking about drinking three to four cups of tea each day. But how much tea is in a cup?

Cup size varies greatly from country to country. But when we say a cup of tea, we mean tea brewed with either one tea bag or about two grams of loose tea. The cup size doesn’t really matter. You can use less water for stronger tasting tea, or more water for lighter tea. But as long as you drink the whole cup, you’ll get the same amount of antioxidant catechins.

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Do Green Tea Supplements Have the Same Health Benefits Brewed Green Tea?

Can you take green tea supplements instead of brewing and drinking green tea? Probably.

As we’ve said, the most important ingredient in green tea is the catechin EGCG. A study at UCLA took a group of 30 healthy people and gave them either liquid tea or green tea extract supplements. They found that both produced the same levels of EGCG in the subject’s blood.

We recommend brewing your own green tea to maximize your health benefits. While the research from many controlled experiments uses green tea extracts, most of the large human studies involve drinking freshly brewed green tea. So we think that’s the most reliable option. But if you prefer, based on the UCLA and other research, you’ll likely get the same health benefits from the supplements.

Just be sure you are buying quality supplements that have sufficient amounts of green tea extracts. As a guide, a cup of quality green tea has about 80 – 100 mg of EGCG, and about 200 mg of total catechins.

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When You Should Avoid Green Tea

If you are sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid green tea. Green tea has only about one quarter the amount of caffeine as coffee, so four cups of green tea would have about the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee. That’s a safe amount for most people. But if have trouble sleeping, you should avoid green tea in the evening. And if you are very sensitive to caffeine, you should completely avoid green tea.

All tea (including green tea) also contains tannins which can prevent your body from absorbing the iron and folic acid found in the foods or supplements that you eat. So you should avoid drinking green tea if you are anemic (iron deficient), pregnant, or if you may get pregnant.

However, the iron absorption problem only occurs if you drink green tea during meals. You can minimize the problem if you also eat foods that enhance iron absorption, like vitamin C. So if you put some lemon in your tea or eat foods rich in vitamin C, iron absorption won’t be a problem. You’ll also eliminate the problem if you drink green tea only between meals — then it won’t affect your iron absorption.

Of course, if you are taking any medications or have any specific medical condition, you should check with your doctor before drinking green tea to confirm that there won’t be any negative interactions with your medication or illness.

And remember, you should limit yourself to three to four cups per day. That’s the right amount to reap all the health benefits.

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Summing Up the Results

Green Tea Health Benefits

Green tea is full of life-extending health benefits. Drink 3 or 4 cups every day!

We hope we’ve convinced you that you should add three to four cups of green tea to your daily routine. While it may not help prevent cancer, you’ll enjoy all of the proven green tea benefits from lowering your bad cholesterol to boosting your brain power to losing weight.

It’s a zero calorie, high benefit drink that’s always a smart choice. So start brewing and drink up!

Do you drink green tea for its health benefits? Which ones? Do you think it works? We’d like to hear your experience. Please share it by leaving a comment below…

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Comments Add Your Own Comment

  1. fran says:

    if you drink the green tea made by Lipton [Lipton Iced Tea -- Green Tea with Citrus, 100 calories], is that good for weight loss? I can’t drink hot green tea, it makes me sick to my stomach.

    • Editor says:


      Unfortunately the iced green tea from Lipton will make you gain weight. It contains sugar and other sweeteners, and one bottle has 130 calories. You will gain more calories from the sugar than you will lose from the green tea. Pure green tea has zero calories.

      If you don’t like it hot, you can try brewing a large batch of green tea and then putting it in the refrigerator. You can try adding a little lemon to improve the taste.

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