Green tea is widely touted as a healthy beverage and for good reason. It is lower in caffeine than its darker counterpart and a decent substitute for coffee when you are looking for a warm caffeinated beverage on a cool day. There is one variety of green tea in particular that all other varieties pail in comparison. The word for tea in Japanese is “cha” and powder is “ma”. Matcha literally translates to powdered tea. In traditional tea brewing the leaves are removed before drinking. This is not the case when it comes to matcha, and this is where it gets its extraordinary benefits.
It is said that in the late 1100’s A.D. that the monk that brought the zen philosophy over to Japan also brought the first tea seeds. Even to this day matcha is still an integral part of zen ceremonies in Japan. As with most things of this nature at first when there was only a small supply of matcha in Japan it was primarily reserved for the Shogun, basically an emperor, and other nobility. Unlike most green tea, matcha is actually covered so that the tree cant get any light for 20 to 30 days prior to harvest. This is the reason that it is so abundant in its beneficial compounds. Luckily for us this form of green tea is a lot more widely available so we can all enjoy the benefits.
Lets start off with the compound in green tea that most people are familiar with, caffeine. When someone who has consumed caffeine is has their brain scanned the areas that light up are areas that pertain to attention and short term memory. It didn’t seem that caffeine effected long-term memory until researchers at John Hopkins University conducted a study in 2014 that showed otherwise. Matcha is high in the amino acid L-theanine which has a relaxing effect. The perfect counter balance for caffeine providing a relaxed alertness. L-theanine has other beneficial effects when it comes to the brain. For instance L-theanine increases brain serotonin, dopamine, GABA levels. As a matter of fact studies show that L-theanine is extremely efficient when it comes to people with major depressive disorder among other conditions. Another compound, EGCg which we will touch on shortly, even reduces amyliod plaques in Alzheimer’s patients.
“Our study suggests that chronic (8-week) l-theanine administration is safe and has multiple beneficial effects on depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbance and cognitive impairments in patients with MDD (major depressive disorder)”(1)
We ended the last section referring to a compound EGCg or epigallocatechin-3-gallate. This provides some of the biggest benefits that matcha in particular is known for. Matcha on average contains 137 times greater the amount of this compound than conventional green tea. Not only has consuming matcha been shown to lower serum and LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and lower serum glucose, but its also effective for weight loss. Matcha is considered to be thermionic, meaning it increases the amount of heat the body generates. This burns more calories. Getting back to EGCg and the reason that its beneficial for weight loss. Fat cells, like any other cell, has to have nutrients. To make sure they get it they trigger a process called angiogenesis. Fat cells are among the most angiogenic cells in the body.
Angiogenesis is the process by which the body makes new blood vessels. As stated earlier fat cells make their own blood vessels so that they can get a constant supply of nutrition. It releases different growth factors and enzymes to accomplish this and at some point along the process, it is not fully understood at the moment, EGCg inhibits this process from taking place. Fat cells literally shrink. It stops fat cells from getting the nutrition they need and make them more prone to release triglycerides to burn for energy.
For the exact same reason that EGCg has been shown to shrink fat cells it has also been shown to shrink tumors. Tumors are the other most angiogenic tissue. For instance tumors ferment sugars to get their energy and they need to make sure that they have a way to get it. This is where the new blood vessels come in. EGCg interferes with the tumors ability to make new blood vessels. The stopping of their energy source is why they appear to shrink. Inflammation is the driving force for metastasis. Metastasis is the means by which cancer spreads and is actually the main reason people actually die from cancer. Luckily for drinkers of matcha EGCg is also a potent anti-inflammatory compound as it suppresses multiple cytokines.
When it comes to heart healthy benefits matcha has got you covered. To start off the catechins found in matcha have been shown to lower the risk of developing heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer in America. There are multiple reasons for this. First is that matcha has been shown to inhibit atherogenesis or plaque formation. Matcha has also been shown to improve lipid (fat) metabolism. For instance it lowers cholesterol absorption in the gut and aids in the synthesis in cholesterol. Serum triglycerides are also lowered. When it comes to the blood vessels themselves the catechins specifically target inflammation occurring within the vessel wall themselves. When consuming matcha there is also an accompanying increase in nitric oxide (NO). NO has a vasodialation effect, meaning that the vessels widen. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Matcha seems to improve systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
To start off with Matcha is loaded with anti-oxidants. this alone will help protect the body from all sorts of damage. In today’s modern world we are surrounded by toxins. Some of the worst are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) and other polychlorinated compounds. They are known carcinogens, meaning they are linked to cancer. Matcha has been shown to inhibit the absorption of these compounds into the intestinal tract. Just another way it helps prevent cancer. Matcha has even been shown to have antimicrobial effects even inhibiting HIV replication. Matcha is beneficial for the teeth as it inhibits the growth of bacteria related to cavities. Matcha has also been shown to be beneficial at inhibiting muscle atrophy. It does this from an increase in the expression of anabolic factors within the body.
As Always Say YES to your Health!
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