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Green tea could help arthritis

9th May 2007

Drinking three to four cups of green tea a day may prevent the inflammation which leads to rheumatoid arthritis, a new study has found.

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The beverage, made from the same plant as black, or 'Indian', tea, but from its unfermented leaves, contains a compound called epigallocatechin 3 gallate (EGCG).

That compound could be effective in blocking a certain type of inflammatory molecule which contribute to the painful condition, a research team at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor said.

Lead researcher Salah-uddin Ahmed said EGCG or molecules that could be derived synthetically from the EGCG found in green tea might be of therapeutic value by inhibiting the joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis.

The team is now examining the inhibitory role of EGCG to see if it provides similar therapeutic or preventive effects.

Ahmed said he believed that the studies would form a strong basis for the future testing of green tea compound in humans with rheumatoid arthritis.

Ahmed, who was scheduled to present the research at the Experimental Biology meeting, in Washington, DC, said he isolated cells called synovial fibroblasts from the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. These cells form a lining of tissue surrounding the capsule of the joints.

In patients with rheumatoid arthritis, this lining is inflamed, leading to long-term joint damage and chronic pain.

Ahmed's team next cultured these cells and exposed them to EGCG. Next, the cells were stimulated with several different kinds of molecules known to play a part in stimulating the breakdown and inflammation of the protective coating over bone joints.

The inflammatory agents were 'significantly' blocked by the EGCG, Ahmed's team found.

Stephen Hsu, an associate professor of dentistry, molecular medicine and genetics at the medical College of Georgia in Augusta has found that green tea may help protect against certain autoimmune diseases, in which the body triggers an immune response, basically attacking its own cells.

Hsu studied EGCG's effect in helping to inhibit an autoimmune disorder known as Sjogren's syndrome, in which the salivary glands are affected, and in lupus, in which the skin is affected.

Ahmed said that while it was too soon to recommend green tea to arthritis patients, the beverage had many other reported health benefits, and had no known adverse effects.

He suggested drinking three to four cups of green tea throughout the day to keep levels of EGCG in the blood steady throughout the day.

Traditional Chinese medicine has included recommendations to drink green tea for centuries, especially for its health benefits as people age.

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