Before nootropic drinks, coca-cola, and even coffee, it was tea that was drank by many. Drinking tea is credited to have begun in China, and today, it is a drink with an affinity to almost every household. It is estimated that every year, over 80 billion servings of tea are served to tea lovers in America. (Yes, billions) Varieties of teas are enjoyed worldwide, but it is green tea that is getting plenty of public limelight for its immense health benefits.
Green tea extract owes its delicate flavor and mouth-cleansing mild astringency (the characteristic that makes your mouth feel clean and fresh after consuming green tea) to a compound known as epigallocatechin gallate, which is simply abbreviated as EGCG. (1) That is the compound that has attracted the attention of the medical and wellness community for its proven scientific benefits.
Of course, us supplement connoisseurs and those obsessed with success needed to find a better way to maximize the benefits of this beverage concentrated with benefits and so green tea extract was created. The main difference between taking green tea as an extract supplement and as a beverage lies in the dosage. In the supplement form, you take EGCG in a higher dosage and get the benefits as a pack.
Why take Green Tea Extract?
Like a cup of green tea, green tea extract in the concentrated form has a wide range of health benefits. It is loaded with antioxidants, promotes heart, liver, brain and skin health, lowers the risk of chronic illnesses, and many studies have shown that it can help in weight loss. In this article, we explore four main, science-based benefits of green tea extract that can help all looking for improved health and performance.
1. Improves Cognition
Green tea extract is good for the brain as it has a positive effect on brain cell health, memory and even helps in preventing brain diseases. It acts on the brain in different ways. First, it improves task performance by enhancing the causal influence that one brain area exerts over another. In a study conducted by Stefan Borgwardt from the University of Basel, Department of Psychiatry, the participants who consumed 27.5 grams of green tea extract showed improvement in the performance of tasks that require working memory. (2)
The scientists analyzed how green tea extract affects brain activity. By studying the brain response through imaging, they realized that it promotes effective connectivity between the frontal and parietal lobes, parts of the brain that are mainly responsible for cognitive functions such as decision making, concentration, and memory. This enhanced connectivity between brain regions affected the plasticity of the brain, which is what was responsible for the improvement in task performance. Plasticity is a term that refers to the brain’s malleability; these changes occur either by thickening, forging and refining nerve connections, or even for the worse by shrinking, degradation and weakening. (3) Green tea extract enhances these connections resulting in improved cognitive functioning.
Additionally, epigallocatechin gallate is the most abundant and potent antioxidant in green tea. (4) In its role as an antioxidant, green tea protects the brain from free radical damage. During cellular respiration which is the process by which your cells make energy, negatively charged particles are a byproduct. If these particles are not able to find another negatively charged molecule to pair with, they are considered free radicals and are highly unstable and reactive. In search of other molecules for pairing, they damage body cells through a process known as oxidation or oxidative damage.
Over time, the damage accumulates, causing illnesses. In the brain, oxidative damage causes deterioration of memory, cognitive function and increases the risk for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants like EGCG protect the brain cells and nerves from damage by breaking the free radicals into harmless molecules or by binding to them and preventing them from attacking the healthy brain cells. (5) Therefore, taking green tea extract improves brain function, boosts memory and prevents neurodegenerative diseases.
2. Helps Reduce Body Fat
Making healthy food choices and regular exercising is the ultimate way of losing weight. Although there are misleading claims everywhere, there are certain supplements that can give your fat loss efforts a boost. There is enough scientific-based evidence that green tea extract aids in weight loss and actually, that is one of the reasons as to why it has become so popular. It is used widely by those seeking to lose weight, bodybuilders, and runners. It is important to note that the extract can only work and the fat will stay away only if you adopt healthier habits.
How does green tea extract help in fat torching and why specifically the extract? Well, the main catechin, EGCG increases the body’s fat burning activity during exercise and long after exercise during rest. EGCG achieves this action by inhibiting an enzyme known as Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) which in turn elevates the levels of epinephrine. (6)
Epinephrine (a type of hormone) then stimulates the release of energy from glucose, boosts metabolism, increases the rate of fatty acid mobilization, prepares the body for physical challenges and increases muscle readiness. The results are improved stamina and endurance for exercise, reduction in total fat area and a well-cut lean body. (7) Moreover, green tea contains caffeine though in small amounts (2 to 4%). (8) The combination of caffeine and EGCG synergizes the ability of the body’s utilization of calories and significantly increases the resting metabolic rate. (9)
Taking a cup of green tea does not have these beneficial effects as compared to taking green tea extracts. The extracts are more concentrated with EGCG and are more readily absorbed as compared to a drink. (10)
3. Improves Performance during Physical Activity & Promotes Recovery
The catechins and caffeine in green tea extract are the primary compounds responsible for supporting athletic physical performance. What separates green tea extract from other caffeine-containing supplements is that it has additional benefits that are not only short-lived. First, it boosts blood circulation increasing oxygen supply to the tissues and consequently stimulates energy production. (6) As such, it raises endurance by sustaining energy levels and improving time to exhaustion for those training for running, swimming, cross training and high-intensity exercises.
Second, green tea extract stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the levels of norepinephrine. This increases alertness and decreases perceived exertion, making you concentrate on the task at hand (physical activity).
Furthermore, green tea extract is loaded with antioxidants which help reduce muscle damage after exercise. This means that green tea extracts are not only beneficial to the muscle during heavy muscle exertion but also after a workout, making them good for a pre-workout or post-workout. Antioxidants alleviate oxidative stress which is responsible for inflammation after exertion of muscles. (11) In addition, they also reduce muscle force loss and fatigue, which accelerates muscle recovery and, in the end, leads to increased exercise performance.
4. Aids in the Stabilization of Blood Sugar
Uncontrolled blood sugars happen when either the body cannot make enough insulin, or the body cells do not respond appropriately to insulin (low insulin sensitivity). In some instances, both of these mechanisms do not work properly. (12) The resulting medical condition is diabetes, a lethal disease that you all have heard of, that can eventually cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels. EGCG in green tea extract has been supported by abundant studies that it helps in improving insulin resistance. Of course, even if you are not at the risk of diabetes, unstable blood sugar can lead to increased weight, inflammation, and volatile moods to scratch the surface
One of the key contributing factors to low insulin sensitivity is oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Increasing antioxidant intake is thus a useful strategy to control blood sugar levels. Antidiabetic activity of EGCG is mainly by neutralizing these free radicals. (13) It results to increase in uptake of glucose by tissues, correcting hyperglycemia (high levels of blood glucose). If diabetes has not set in, EGCG can prevent or delay its onset and so many other chronic diseases.
Decaffeinated green tea extract has more potential as a therapeutic agent for lowering blood sugar, cholesterol, and hypertension. (12) Also, for proper control of blood sugar in diabetes, the extract works best together with other drugs that your doctor may prescribe, dietary changes and physical activity.
Suggested Dosage, Synergies & Administration of Green Tea Extract
Most doses of green tea extract are heavily reliant on the level of EGCG. For a cup of tea, each has approximately 50mg of EGCG, yet, the benefits are maximized at higher levels. For fat burning, significant effects are noted with doses as from 400-500mg. In blood sugar control, cardiovascular and brain protection, and prevention of other chronic illnesses, low doses of 200mg are recommended, but with more frequency (2 to 3 times daily). (14) Note that high and frequent doses increase the chances of nausea and vomiting.
Green tea extract should not be taken on an empty stomach due to the risk of liver toxicity from the high levels of EGCG. The extract should be taken after a meal, preferably a low dietary carbohydrate meal. To increase its absorption and effectiveness, take with quercetin, fish oil, caffeine or vitamin C as they synergize each other. On the other hand, green tea extract does not go well with drugs such as warfarin, folic and iron supplements, and bortezomib. If taking any of them, it is prudent first to consult your doctor. (15)
The extract can be taken in a number of ways. It has a very high solubility in water so adding it to a cup of warm to hot water, tea, juice or a smoothie is one suitable method. It can also be swallowed just like any other capsule or taken sublingually (under the tongue). The sublingual route provides the quickest entry into the bloodstream but is inadvisable for long term due to the strong taste and acidity of green tea.
History & Origin of Green Tea
Green tea has its legendary origin in China more than 5000 years ago during the reign of Emperor Shennong. Initially, people consumed green tea just by chewing and eating, the same way that coffee was first taken in Ethiopia. Later, its consumption expanded as people began cooking it by steeping it in boiled and flavored water. It is much later that they discovered the steaming method to prevent oxidation of the green tea leaves. (16) All this Chinese green tea history is inscribed in a book titled Cha Jing or simply Tea Classic by Lu Yu.
It then spread to Japan, where it became an art form. The Japanese came up with different variations of taking green tea, offered much formality to the tea and deeply integrated it into their culture. (17) Throughout the next centuries, green tea spread to the west, mainly Portugal and Holland and then to the rest of the world. The first shipment outside China was not as apparent as the discovery of paper or printing, but it is what has made tea consumption what it is today.
Final Thoughts of Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract has stood the test of time in regard to its reputation and enhancing health and athletic performance. Here is a recap of the little details that make interesting final facts and fun.
- Green tea was discovered thousands of years ago in China. A legend has it that a green tea leaf fell in a pot of boiling water and when the owner tasted it, he liked it and then told others about it.
- Green tea extract is obtained from a plant known as Camellia Sinensis. The leaves that are collected should not have undergone any withering or oxidation process, to preserve the critical nutrients and benefits.
- It is a good source of antioxidants and plant alkaloids. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most vital constituent. Also contains vitamins, healthy minerals, and caffeine in small amounts.
- EGCG is required in the body in large amounts for its benefits. On average, a cup of green tea has only about 50mg of EGCG. Green tea extracts are therefore the best way to get the benefits of EGCG.
- Increases metabolism, fat oxidation, blood circulation and energy production. This increases fat loss and physical activity endurance.
- Helps in muscle healing after a workout.
- Protects the brain cells and prevents deterioration of cognitive functioning.
- Aids in regulation of blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity in the body tissues.