Green tea helps kill cancer cells while promoting health of normal ones - researchers

A woman picks tea leaves at the Moriuchi Tea Farm on May 1, 2014 in Shizuoka, Japan. Japan produces aproximately 100,000 tons of green tea per year. From late April to early May,  tea farmers handpick Shincha (the first tea of the year) which is usually considered the highest of quality and most sought after. Shizuoka is internationally known as one of the best places for genuine Japanese green tea, producing 45% of Japan's overall tea production.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
A woman picks tea leaves at the Moriuchi Tea Farm in Shizuoka, Japan
(Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Green tea may help kick-start cycles of cancerous cell death while leaving healthy ones alone, scientists have claimed.
A compound found in the tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate – or EGCG – could trigger a process of destroying malignant cells, researchers at Penn State’s Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health have found.

While the tea has always been known to contain powerful anti-oxidants that are beneficial to all-round health, new developments have shown that the compound is partly responsible for destroying cells that are likely to lead to growth of deadly tumours.

Associate professor Joshua Lambert said: “EGCG is doing something to damage the mitochondria and that mitochondrial damage sets up a cycle causing more damage and it spirals out, until the cell undergoes programmed cell death.”

As the mitochondria – the membrane of a cell – is killed, the chances of the malignant cells returning or growing is further reduced by inducing oxidative stress while feeding the benefits of anti-oxidant into normal cells.

The presence of sirtuin 3, a protein vital to the health and life-span of cells, is also found to be increased in healthy cells and reduced in cancerous ones with the help of the EGCG compound.

The findings could be vital in developing alternative medicines to chemotherapy, that do not pose harmful side effects, or for formulating effective preventative treatments, researchers believe.

The study has been published in the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research journal.

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