Green tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a plant full of polyphenols, the active ingredient found in many green teas. Since 1988, there have been more than a thousand studies exploring what catechins are and documenting the cancer-preventive ability of tea’s polyphenols. Catechins, a subgroup of polyphenols, are powerful antioxidants that are thought to be responsible for most of the health benefits attributed to green tea. Many research studies focus on matcha green tea’s cancer-fighting properties in large part because of the high-dose of catechins in matcha.
Many of matcha’s health benefits are related to epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a major group of catechins that modulate immune system functions and promote anticancer activity. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), EGCG can protect cells from DNA damage, activate detoxification enzymes that inhibit tumor growth, and promote cancer cell destruction.
It is also believed that matcha’s catechins may even protect the skin against UV radiation, reducing one’s risk of skin cancer. Researchers have found the effects of tea on the skin include decreasing the risk of cell carcinoma and cutaneous malignant melanoma (a more severe type of skin cancer).
One of the most exciting new developments in the study of what catechins are and can do is a new study from the University of Salford in the UK which analyzed the effects of matcha on human breast cancer cells. This study showed that matcha’s active ingredients can have an almost surgical effect, blocking signaling pathways between cancer stem cells. The study suggests that matcha’s catechins suppress mitochondrial metabolism which prevents the re-fuelling of damaged cells and renders them inactive (making them die eventually).
Matcha cancer-fighting properties are also linked to the prevention of other types of cancer. Some animal studies revealed that green tea can inhibit tumor incidence and multiplicity in different organs such as the lungs, liver, stomach, and colon. Research practiced in humans shows that polyphenols can also play an important role in chemopreventive treatments. They suggest that consuming green tea can even lower the risk of several types of cancer such as prostate and lung cancer.
If you are curious about what catechins are and want to find out more about matcha green tea’s health benefits beyond cancer prevention, explore our other blog posts on matcha’s amazing abilities!