How Green Tea Helps Longevity

Sipping Your Way to a Long and Healthy Life

High Angle View Of Green Tea Bag In Cup On Table
 Jasmin Awad / EyeEm/Getty Images

If you're looking for an elixir for long life, you might consider green tea. This hot beverage, popular in Asia for thousands of years, has been studied for its possible role in longevity. Learn what green tea is, what the research says and whether you should drink it.

What Is Green Tea?

All green tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant. Unlike black tea, which is also made from this plant, green tea leaves are steamed, but not fermented.

This keeps more of its nutrition profile intact. Green tea gets its proposed health benefits from catechins, a powerful type of antioxidant. Antioxidants help the body to remove damaging free radicals

How Much Green Tea Should You Drink

Unless caffeine is an issue, researchers say between 4 and 6 cups of green tea a day will give you a number of catechins to confer health benefits. If it is determined that green tea has no benefits, that amount of consumption should not cause side effects other than from the caffeine.

Who Shouldn't Drink Green Tea

Green tea has about 30 to 60 milligrams of caffeine per cup. While that's less caffeine than coffee, it still may be too much for people who are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine (insomnia and jitteriness are two potential side effects). Because of its caffeine, green tea should be avoided by infants and children. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should limit the amount of green tea they drink.

Green Tea for Longevity and Healthy Aging

The most common use of green tea is to help the body age well. The antioxidants in green tea are thought to erase some of the negative effects of aging on the body. However, the research is often done in Asian populations and their results may not reflect the habits, culture, and genetic influences in other populations.

A 2015 study in Rejuvenation Research looked into the role of genetics. Researchers looked at a specific genotype (FOXO1A-209) and found that drinking green tea reduced mortality in people who carried this gene. The take-home message is that your unique genetic profile might influence whether green tea lengthens your life.

Another study, published in the November 2013 edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, revealed that green tea was linked to longer life among Chinese people who reported drinking green tea at 60.

Uses of Green Tea With Unclear, Scant, or Contradictory Research Results

Green tea has been researched for a number of other health benefits (with sometimes conflicting results), as reported by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. These conditions are among the other possible uses for green tea:

  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer prevention: Inconsistent results are seen and it is not recommended to reduce the risk of any type of cancer.
  • Cavity prevention
  • Diabetes prevention and treatment
  • Fertility treatment
  • Heart attack prevention: May improve blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Cholesterol and triglyceride improvement: It may have beneficial effects.
  • Memory improvement
  • Menopause
  • Increase alertness: This has been shown, as expected from the caffeine.
  • Weight loss: No meaningful effect has been proven.

Of course, your overall lifestyle is the most important recipe for longevity and general health. While green tea may help, it's by no means a magic bullet.

Sources:

Boehm K, Borrelli F, Ernst E, et al. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) for the prevention of cancer. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. August 2009. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd005004.pub2.

Green Tea. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/greentea.

Ruan R, Feng L, Li J, Ng T-P, Zeng Y. Tea Consumption and Mortality in the Oldest-Old Chinese. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2013;61(11):1937-1942. doi:10.1111/jgs.12498.

Zeng Y, Chen H, Ni T, et al. Interaction Between theFOXO1A-209Genotype and Tea Drinking Is Significantly Associated with Reduced Mortality at Advanced Ages. Rejuvenation Research. 2016;19(3):195-203. doi:10.1089/rej.2015.1737.