As long as you are respecting the adage that too much of a good thing can be harmful, green tea is a powerful protector of liver health.
Many published studies have revealed liver health benefits of green tea – and of green tea’s active ingredients, catechins. Despite holistic medical practitioners’ praise of green tea for the liver, several reports that green tea can harm the liver are disconcerting.
Before ditching your green tea habit, consider the specifics in each negative report.
Regular readers of health care articles are likely familiar with controversy; one study claims a substance has health benefits and the next study seems to conclude exactly the opposite. Taking opposing views into consideration, figuring out what to believe can be frustrating. If you look hard enough, you can find conflicting information about most topics – including the liver health benefits of green tea. Although it can be tedious, examining the details of any study or health claim will deliver the information being sought.
3 Details to Look For
When reading an article or published study, a simplistic overview is rarely sufficient to make a conclusion. There are several important details that will help you in an analysis of whether or not a substance (like green tea) is beneficial or harmful.
Details to look for include:
- Sampled subjects – This category is valuable to ascertain if the observed or measured consequence is likely to apply to the general population. Is this an isolated account of one individual, or a study compilation of dozens, hundreds or thousands of subjects? Are the study participants healthy and have they been screened for other potential health issues (like cirrhosis)?
- Co-conspirators – This category is valuable to ascertain if the substance is solely responsible for the observed or measured consequence. Is the substance being evaluated singly or is it combined with several others? Is the substance in a formula with additional ingredients? Is the subject being monitored to make sure they are not consuming alcohol or another potential irritant?
- Quantity – This category is valuable to ascertain if the observed or measured consequence resulted from an acceptable dosage – or if an over dosage is culpable. Is the amount being studied within reasonable limits? Is there any oversight to determine if gross excess contributed to the conclusion?
Green Tea for Your Liver
Green tea is recognized as a drinkable superfood. The antioxidants found in green tea (catechins such as EGCG & ECG) have decades of published, double blind research showing they assist liver function and protect the liver from the damaging effects of toxic substances such as alcohol. Green tea’s catechins help protect the body from the free radicals that cause cellular damage and inflammation – thus assisting in the promotion of health, and the prevention of disease.
Clinical trials have found that EGCG (green tea’s most active catechin):
- Reduces the risk of certain types of cancer – including liver cancer
- Reduces blood sugar level spikes and protects against Type 2 diabetes
- Promotes healthy gut flora (it is a prebiotic)
- Prevents obesity
- Reduces liver enzyme levels
- Reduces fat accumulation in the liver
- Improves blood cholesterol levels
A brief glance at green tea’s health benefits makes it an obvious choice for those wanting to prevent or slow liver cell damage and fat accumulation in the liver. However, the details described above play a significant role in whether or not you could be the recipient of green tea’s liver health benefits.
Green Tea Warnings
Even though the evidence that green tea supports liver health appears to be airtight, too much of a good thing can backfire. Most of us understand this to be the case for just about everything, including medications, supplements and even food. The headlines grabbing attention lately warning of liver damage from green tea require a closer look at the details:
- Sampled subjects – The instances where green tea is assumed to be harmful to the liver are isolated cases; they are not large-scale studies evaluating green tea’s safety and benefits. From a broad perspective, a handful of isolated cases where green tea is assumed to be harmful does not compare to the thousands of studies finding green tea to be beneficial. Although an isolated case is still a valid account, the types of controls instilled in published studies are noticeably absent. Thus, isolated case studies have too many variables (what else did the person eat or drink, were they on any medications, did they take other supplements, did they have any other health conditions) to draw any distinct conclusion.
- Co-conspirators – Reports of green tea causing liver injury usually involve green tea as one ingredient in a weight loss formula. If not yet banned, many weight loss formulas combine ingredients to rev up the body’s metabolism for burning fat. If green tea is part of a formula you take, make sure the company is reputable and that it is not a weight loss formula. In addition, those who had a negative consequence from consuming green tea may have concurrently taken a substance that accelerates metabolism (such as coffee or guarana or red ginseng) or a substance that burdens the liver (such as sugar or alcohol or acetaminophen).
- Quantity – The last detail to consider regarding green tea’s liver health profile is quantity. Just as with all foods, drugs or supplements, moderation is key. Consuming an excess amount of just about anything can be harmful. Too much vitamin A, too much vitamin B, too much vitamin C, too much potassium, too much protein…too much of just about any ingestible item can be harmful. Human clinical studies demonstrate that doses of up to 1.6 grams of green tea extract are well tolerated. The maximum tolerated dose in humans is reported to be 9.9 grams per day; a dose equivalent to 24 cups of green tea. Nonetheless, 24 cups of green tea per day is definitely excessive. So if you drink green tea for your liver’s health, do not go overboard: two cups a day is plenty!
The liver health benefits of green tea’s catechins are substantial, enough to warrant its use for those with liver concerns. However, just as with any natural substance, moderation is imperative. Before jumping to conclusions after reading a report of liver harm from green tea, consider the sampled subjects, any possible co-conspirator substances and the quantity of green tea involved. When following these analytic guidelines, you will find that a moderate amount of green tea can make a big, healthful impact on your liver.
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