Green tea help bones grow

20 September 2009


If you are a tea addict - like Helen - and you fancy a health boost in your daily cuppa, than you could do a lot worse than reach for a swig of green tea, apparently one of the world's most popular drinks.

Green tea leaves steeping in an uncovered zhong (type of tea cup).Along side all the other potential health benefits it comes with - it is allegedly good for our hearts, it has anti-cancer properties - it now seems that compounds found in green tea are good for bones too.

Ping Chung Leung and colleagues from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have been looking at the affects on bone cells of a trio of compounds called catechins that are found naturally in green tea.

By exposing cultures of bone-forming cells from rats - called osteoblasts - to these green tea compounds, the researchers found that both the rate of bone growth and bone strengthening was significantly increased within a few days.

Some of this bone boosting affect comes down to the activity of a key enzyme that promotes bone growth. One particular green tea compound called Epi- gallo-catechin (EGC), led to an increase in this enzyme's activity by 79%.  It also increased levels of bone mineralization in these cells: a vital part of strengthening bones.

EGC also suppressed the activity of cells called osteoclast cells that weaken and break down old bone, part of the natural process of bone remodelling.These studies were conducted on rat bone cells, so further research is need to see if the same affect will hold true for human bone cells.

What's more, the study, appearing in the journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, doesn't mention how the doses of catechins used relate to the amounts found in a cup of green tea. It is also not clear whether it would have any affect on your bones when the liquid has passed through your digestive system.

Nevertheless, earlier studies have hinted at the real benefits of drinking tea, for example it's been shows that postmenopausal women who are regular tea drinkers tend to also have denser bones.

And this study certainly points towards a potential new approach to treating bone conditions like osteoporosis if the activity of those catechin compounds can be harnessed. And it just goes to show, that sipping a daily cup of green tea, is not just tasty and refreshing, but it may well be doing us some good too.


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