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Drinking green tea imparts many health benefits, ranging from improving heart health to reducing the risk of cancer. Research suggests that green tea might also offer significant benefits for people with neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), when utilized as part of an appropriate integrative medical management plan. Green tea contains several bioactive molecules (phytonutrients) including those with powerful antioxidant properties, such as EGCG, as well as those with immunomodulatory and neuroprotective actions. These antioxidants and other phytonutrients are responsible for the general health benefits of green tea and may have particular importance for people with MS.
Phytonutrients from green tea are antioxidants that protect the brain from oxidative damage. Several mechanisms are responsible for these beneficial effects. They include reducing heavy metal burden (one cause of oxidative stress) and stimulating the Nrf2 antioxidant pathway.
Phytonutrients from green tea are also immunomodulatory and neuroprotective. One key study performed using the animal model of MS (which is called EAE), showed that administering EGCG lowers levels of harmful inflammation in the brain and prevents demyelination--the characteristic type of damage that occurs in the brains of people with MS. Specifically, EGCG calms the immune system, which is hyperactivated in MS. It inhibits the production of certain types of white blood cells (Th1 and Th17) that aggravate MS and enhances the production of those that are protective (Treg). Another animal study examined the neuroprotective effects of combining green tea extract with Copaxone, one of the disease-modifying medications available for treating MS. This study demonstrated that combination therapy provides superior protection compared to Copaxone alone.
To reap the health benefits that green tea offers, many experts recommend consuming at least 2-3 cups per day. While green tea has been used safely for generations, anyone with a chronic illness or taking medications should check with their doctor before consuming medicinal quantities. A cup of green tea contains about 1/3 the caffeine found in a cup of coffee. For individualized dietary and supplement strategies to help with oxidative stress, immunomodulation, and neuroprotection, schedule a visit to see Dr. Deneb Bates, the IMSMP’s Naturopathic Doctor.