Green tea is the second most popular beverage in the world, after water. That fact is not surprising in countries like the UK and China where drinking tea is a daily ritual. But in the United States, tea consumption is hardly as popular — unless it's iced. More than 85 percent of tea consumed in the U.S. is chilled and most is purchased in the form of ready-to-drink tea bags. Still, as consumer demand increases for healthier alternatives to soda and other sugary drinks, tea continues to make its way into the American lifestyle.
Green tea is full of nutrients and antioxidants and has been discovered to contain an anti-cancer compound. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, there’s an increasing amount of scientific evidence suggesting that regular consumption of green tea may have a role in preventing a variety of cancers. According to Jeffrey R. Prince, AICR Vice President for Education, "The overwhelming majority of Americans may be cutting themselves off from the very cancer-protective, health-promoting effects that are beginning to show up again and again in the scientific literature."
The bioactive compounds in green tea have shown to have numerous positive effects on neurons and can reduce the risk of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, the two most common neurodegenerative diseases. Green tea is loaded with polyphenols such as flavonoids and catechins, which function as powerful antioxidants that protect cells and molecules from damage.
Two Cups a Day
People in Asia certainly have a head start, with an average per capita consumption of three to four cups of green tea per day in Japan and China. Unlike the United States, green tea is a diet staple in these east countries. Older populations (70 years and up) drink even more — ten cups a day is not unusual!
According to Dr. Thomas A. Gasiewicz, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, there’s an active green tea substance called EGCG that targets cancer-causing proteins "with a degree of precision that cancer drugs still aren’t able to match." Basically, the compound EGCG binds to a protein called HSP90, which helps prevent a chain of cancer-causing events in the body.
The exact amount of green tea needed for cancer prevention is currently being studied in clinical trials. In the meantime, researchers say that two to three U.S. teacups per day (a typical Japanese teacup holds four fluid ounces or 120 milliliters of tea, while a typical American teacup holds six fluid ounces or approximately 180 milliliters of tea) has been associated with cancer protection in many studies.