Green tea may be a somewhat recent health drink in the West, but it has been drunk for its positive effect on the body for thousands of years. Millions if not billions of people worldwide drink green tea for a more healthy life. In an attempt to streamline the process of absorption and significantly increase the health benefits, supplements are now selling green tea extracts; hyper-concentrated green tea in pill form.
This supplement can have a wealth of benefits for you, and you don’t have to drink green tea all day to get them. However, high green tea extract caffeine content and other risks do exist. So, like most supplements and medications, green tea extract can have negative impacts on your health if not used correctly. Let’s take a look at the facts so you can learn just what green tea extract is, the benefits, and how to use it effectively.
Green Tea: The Basics
Green tea has been around, legend has it, for approximately 4,500 years. The mythical god-king Shennong gifted the knowledge of green tea and its cultivation to the Chinese people along with many other agricultural secrets. It isn’t certain if it is that old, but the popular drink certainly could be.
It was all the way back in the Tang dynasty, around 1400 years ago, that the green tea plant and methods of its cultivation were written down. Several hundred years later in 1191, a Japanese Zen Buddhist master brought green tea to Japan and documented its many health benefits.
Green tea made its way to the west when European explorers and colonizers arrived seeking spice. Tea became extremely popular in Europe and the New World, but mostly it was the darker teas that saw heavy import. Green tea has only relatively recently made a splash in the western world, but it has done so in a big way. Green tea consumption has increased by 60% in the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down.
The Health Benefits of Green Tea and Green Tea Extract
In the past, Chinese traditional medicine has prescribed green tea for countless ailments and is hailed as a miracle drink. It may not “balance the five major organs” or anything like that, but the beverage has been linked to improvements in several areas of health. Nearly the entire body benefits from regular consumption of green tea or green tea extract. Here are the most significant health benefits green tea provides for you.
Many of green tea’s benefits come from its high antioxidant count. Free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms that are formed from interactions with oxygen. You happen to be surrounded by oxygen at all times, so we have plenty of these in our bodies. Unfortunately, they can damage cells and DNA, causing disorders like cancer. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals and keep you healthy. Regular consumption of green tea and green tea extract significantly raises the level of antioxidants in your system.
With a high amount of antioxidants in your blood, you can experience health benefits such as:
- Reduced Inflammation and Blood Pressure: Free radicals increase oxidative stress and inflame your arteries and blood vessels. As they swell up, your blood pressure increases and your risk of heart disease does as well. Antioxidants found in green tea reduce this stress.
- Reduced Cholesterol and Blood Fat: Consumption of green tea has been linked to lower levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and blood fat levels. All of these are risk factors for heart disease.
- Increased Brain Health: Antioxidants prevent damage to brains cells and thereby mental decline. More antioxidants mean less risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Green tea and its antioxidants have also been shown to increase memory and brain function.
- Increased Liver Health: Antioxidants are also linked with lower levels of harmful liver enzymes and reduced inflammation.
- Better Blood Sugar: Green tea and its antioxidants have been demonstrated to increase insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar regulation.
There is no conclusive evidence that green tea prevents cancer, although there is strong evidence that black tea does. However, data suggests that people who consume green tea are at a lower risk of certain kinds of cancer. With all of the other health benefits that green tea and green tea extract provide, it’s just one more thing. Some of the cancers green tea is thought to prevent are:
- Lung Cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Oral Cancer
- Liver Cancer
Weight Loss Benefits
Weight loss is one of the main health benefits touted b the health product industry. Green tea and its extract, however, delivers on the promise of fat burning if used correctly. It does this with two of the substances found in it: antioxidants and caffeine.
- Antioxidants: Besides fighting free radicals and protecting your body from disease, antioxidants in your system also promote the process of thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is the process by which your body burns fat into energy. Antioxidants regulate the hormones that trigger and maintain this process.
- Caffeine: Most people in the modern world are already acquainted with caffeine in their daily lives. But besides keeping us awake and alert, it also gives us a hand in the gym. Caffeine increases focus and fights fatigue, allowing us to work harder for longer and keep thermogenesis going.
How Green Tea Extract Fits Into All of This
So, it seems like green tea can kick your health into high gear, but what’s the catch? Well, to get these wonderful perks, you have to consume a lot of green tea. Like, 5 cups or more a day a lot. One can understandably be daunted by this task, but this is where green tea extract comes in. With a single or perhaps two capsules a day you can achieve the desired effect without guzzling tea every day.
However, there’s a problem at the other end of the spectrum as well. Like everything else, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Any supplement you take is going to your liver for processing, and it can only take so much. Overloading it with a substance, even a natural one can be bad for you. On top of that, green tea extract is high in caffeine which can also have unpleasant side effects. That is why it is so important to get the facts and use this extract correctly.
Abusing anything, like alcohol or sugar, is a bad idea. Green tea extract is no different. It’s fantastic in the right doses, but put too much in your system, and you may experience hepatotoxicity. This is just a fancy medical term meaning your liver is inundated with a substance and can’t process it fast enough. The resulting chemical excess damages your liver and limits function. Not a happy experience.
Knowing how much is too much isn’t easy, unfortunately. Everyone is different, and their livers react differently to substances. To prevent any complications, read the supplement’s information and instructions carefully to avoid overdose. Also, consult a doctor to determine how much is safe for you and what effects it might have on your unique physiology.
Then there’s the caffeine content. This one isn’t quite as bad as the liver dangers; excessive caffeine has yet to be proven to cause long term damage to any part of your body. However, too much caffeine, even green tea extract caffeine in your system can cause you to experience unpleasant side effects such as :
- Headaches or migraines
- Nervousness or the jitters
- Irritability and mood swings
- Frequent urination
- Upset Stomach
- Elevated heart rate
- Muscle tremors
Around 400 milligrams (mg) a day seems to be safe for healthy adults. Of course, things are different for children, pregnant women or people with chronic health issues. Always ask a doctor if your situation is different to see what is safe.
How Much Green Tea Extract Caffeine Is in a Capsule?
So how much of your daily caffeine allowance is in a green tea extract capsule? It depends on the brand and size of the capsule. There are many different green tea plants and variance in their preparation can change caffeine levels even more.
The average green tea extract capsule contains 25 to 35 mg of caffeine. However, some capsules have as low as only a few milligrams of caffeine, and some have as much as 160 mg. You’ll have to check the package and information of different supplements to find out how much caffeine each one has.
If 35 mg seems like not that much compared to the 400 mg a day recommendation, don’t forget you’ll likely be taken more than one capsule a day. And, that caffeine is on top of all of the other caffeinated drinks you already consume. If you are worried about excess caffeine, some capsules use decaffeinated tea leaves that have 0 mg.
Do the Math, Get the Benefits, Avoid the Dangers
Green tea has fantastic health benefits for you, and green tea extract capsules are a fast and easy way to get all the antioxidants and caffeine you need. But beware of going overboard. Excess green tea extract caffeine can have adverse effects on your physiology, so do your homework, run the numbers and reap the benefits safely.