Green tea lowers cholesterol risk, but only a little

Wed Jul 6, 2011 9:07pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Drinking green tea appears to cut "bad" cholesterol while leaving levels of good cholesterol unchanged, and encouraging people to drink more of the beverage could have significant health effects, according to a study.

The finding may explain why green tea has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, write Xin-Xin Zheng and colleagues from Peking Union Medical College in Beijing.

While levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol dipped, there was no change in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol.

"The analysis... showed that the administration of green tea beverages or extracts resulted in significant reductions in serum total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol concentrations, but no effect on HDL cholesterol was observed," they wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The research team pooled the results of 14 randomized trials in which participants drank green tea or took an extract for periods ranging from three weeks to three months, or were assigned to a placebo group.

On average, green tea reduced total cholesterol by 7.2 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) compared to levels seen in those taking the placebo. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol fell by a mean of 2.2 mg/dL, or slightly less than 2 percent.

The cholesterol-lowering effects of green tea may be due to catechins, which decrease the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, the researchers said.

But this reduction is fairly small, warned Nathan Wong, who runs the heart disease prevention program at the University of California, Irvine.

Green tea "should not be recommended in place of well-proven cholesterol-lowering medicines for people with high cholesterol," he told Reuters Health.   Continued...

<p>A man (top R) walks at a terraced green tea farm in Boseong, about 400 km (248 miles) south of Seoul August 26, 2009. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won</p>