Green tea (from the plant Camellia sinensis), a beverage whose consumption started 5000 years ago in China, has important biological and pharmacological properties. The beneficial effects of green tea have been attributed to the presence of phenolic compounds that are powerful anti-oxidants and free iron scavengers. Of all the catechins found in green tea, namely (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate, (-)-epigallocatechin, (-)-epicatechin and (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), EGCG is the most abundant and powerful. It is widely believed that green tea may protect against death from all causes, especially cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart disease and stroke) owing to the presence of catechins associated with green tea consumption. Other health benefits include various types of cancer chemoprevention, weight loss and protective effects against neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease). Thus far, numerous pharmacological activities regulating disease-specific molecular targets have been reported in vitro for EGCG concentrations in the micromolar range, which are physiologically irrelevant. Although most of the studies have shown benefits with two to three cups of green tea per day, the optimal dose has not yet been established to enable any solid conclusions to be drawn regarding the various health benefits of green tea or its constituents in humans. With Phase I trials providing information on the safety profile and pharmacokinetics of EGCG, the window of opportunity is wider to undertake well-controlled long-term human studies to enable a full understanding of the protective effects of green tea catechins on various parameters in different settings.
© 2012 The Author Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.