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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Green Tea: The New Chicken Soup?

BY JESSICA BREEN

With flu season beginning, it's comforting to know that there are simple dietary additions that can assist us in staying strong and healthy.

Multiple studies in recent years have proven what naturopathic doctors have known for centuries: green tea is a powerful immunostimulant capable of preventing the flu, easing its symptoms and shortening its duration.

Studies done in 2005 and 2007 from Yonsei University in South Korea examined the effect of tea catechins on the influenza virus and found that the antioxidant compounds strongly inhibited absorption of three strains of the common flu, in addition to one strain of avian flu: "EGCG and ECG were found to be potent inhibitors of influenza virus replication in MDCK cell culture and this effect was observed in all influenza virus subtypes tested, including A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and B virus." The latter study concludes that supplementation with green tea catechins "may complement the limitations of current antivirals and assist in managing influenza."

In 2007, the University of Florida studied the effect of green tea on flu symptoms and duration. Among the flu-infected subjects who supplemented with green tea, there was a 32% reduction in the number of subjects who felt any symptoms at all, and among those who did experience symptoms, a 35% reduction in the length of time the symptoms were present. A possible reason? Those taking the green tea experienced a 28% increase in the production of gamma delta t cells, powerful antigens that fight foreign invaders in the body such as viruses.

Finally, a 2003 study from the University of Sherbrooke in Canada found green tea effective in fighting adenovirus infections. Some common adenovirus infections include tonsillitis, ear infection, croup, and in small children, gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu.

A classic study by the National Institute of Health in Japan elaborates on the possible mechanism by which green tea is able to stop the flu in its tracks: "Tea polyphenols bind to the haemagglutinin of influenza virus, inhibit its adsorption to MDCK cells, and thus block its infectivity." This refers to the process by which the influenza virus uses surface proteins to clump together our red blood cells, forming a substance called haemagglutinin; and this process - necessary if the virus is to thrive - can be halted if the polyphenols in green tea bind to the clumped cells. Essentially, the polyphenols prevent the virus from "settling down" inside us.

Conclusion: Don't be a gracious host to the flu virus. When added to a balanced lifestyle, green tea can assist you in maintaining health and strength throughout the most immune-challenging time of the year.

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Antiviral Res. 2005 Nov;68(2):66-74. Epub 2005 Aug 9.
Antiviral effect of catechins in green tea on influenza virus.
Song JM, Lee KH, Seong BL.
Department of Biotechnology, College of Engineering, Yonsei University, 134, Shinchon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-749, South Korea.

Antiviral Res. 2007 Nov;76(2):178-85. Epub 2007 Aug 1.
Biological evaluation of anti-influenza viral activity of semi-synthetic catechin derivatives.
Song JM, Park KD, Lee KH, Byun YH, Park JH, Kim SH, Kim JH, Seong BL.
Department of Biotechnology, College of Engineering, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea.

J Am Coll Nutr. 2007 Oct;26(5):445-52.
Specific formulation of Camellia sinensis prevents cold and flu symptoms and enhances gamma,delta T cell function: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Rowe CA, Nantz MP, Bukowski JF, Percival SS.
Food Science and Human Nutrition Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA.

Antiviral Res. 2003 Apr;58(2):167-73.
Inhibition of adenovirus infection and adenain by green tea catechins.
Weber JM, Ruzindana-Umunyana A, Imbeault L, Sircar S.
Departement de Microbiologie et d'Infectiologie, Faculte de Medecine, Universite de Sherbrooke, Que, Sherbrooke, Canada J1H 5N4.

Antiviral Res. 1993 Aug;21(4):289-99.
Inhibition of the infectivity of influenza virus by tea polyphenols.
Nakayama M, Suzuki K, Toda M, Okubo S, Hara Y, Shimamura T.
Department of Virology and Rickettsiology, National Institute of Health, Tokyo, Japan.

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