A powerful Alzheimer's fighter could be right in your mug.
A new study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that an antioxidant called EGCG, which is found in green tea and red wine, is able to stop amyloid-beta proteins -- known to play a role in Alzheimer's -- from attaching to and killing brain cells in a lab setting.
The study is based on the notion that amyloid proteins form ball-like clumps, which are not uniform in size. These amyloid clumps then bind to the outer proteins of brain cells and kill them. However, the researchers wanted to see if changing the shape of the amyloid clumps -- by applying EGCG-- altered their ability to bind to the brain cells.
Sure enough, they found that the EGCG could change the shape of the amyloid proteins. And because of that, the amyloid proteins no longer bound to the cells.
Even though the study was conducted in a lab setting and has yet to be proven in humans, "this is an important step in increasing our understanding of the cause and progression of Alzheimer's disease," study researcher Nigel Hooper, a professor at the University of Leeds, said in a statement.
These findings are released at the same time as another study in the journal Neurology, showing that the number of people with Alzheimer's could triple by 2050, MyHealthNewsDaily reported.
"It will place a huge burden on society, disabling more people who develop the disease, challenging their caregivers and straining medical and social safety nets," study researcher Jennifer Weuve, who is an assistant professor of medicine at Rush Institute for Healthy Aging, told MyHealthNewsDaily.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, though there are some medications that can help to stave off the thinking problems associated with the disease, including cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, according to the Mayo Clinic.
CORRECTION: A previous version of the headline for this article had an incorrect spelling of the green tea compound EGCG. It has been corrected.
Also on HuffPost:
…Protect The Heart
A few cups of any tea have been linked with a <a href="http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v61/n1/full/1602489a.html">lower risk of heart disease</a>, but green tea in particular seems to <a href="http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1820250,00.html">keep heart arteries "flexible and relaxed"</a> to better handle changes in blood pressure, Time.com reported. The antioxidants known as flavonoids <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20837049">keep the endothelial cells working properly</a>, which in turn helps to prevent clogged arteries.
The studies mostly come from the lab rather than real life, but some experts believe that the same EGCG catechin can fight off viruses. In one study, green tea <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12742577">prevented a particular strain of the cold virus from replicating</a>. It's thought to work thanks to a boost to the number of <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21621552">"regulatory T cells"</a> in the body, a marker of stronger immune system functioning.
Green tea can aid in weight loss and prevent weight <em>gain</em>, making it a useful tool in the fight against our ever-expanding waistlines. Five cups a day seems to <a href="http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20409937,00.html">up the body's natural fat-burning abilities</a>, Health.com reported. And in a 2011 study, mice <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111004123824.htm">gained weight more slowly</a> when they were given green tea along with a high-fat diet.
…Improve Functioning In Old Age
In a study of 14,000 adults over the age of 65, the ones who drank the most green tea <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/08/green-tea-functioning-old-age_n_1258028.html">coped the best with the aging process</a>. Everyday activities like bathing or dressing were easier for the seven percent who drank at least five cups a day, HuffPost reported. While some of this benefit may be chalked up to healthier lifestyles in general, the researchers said something about green tea itself still seems to play a role.
Both black and green tea are thought to have <a href="http://diabetes.webmd.com/news/20050420/black-tea-green-tea-good-for-diabetes">blood-sugar-lowering effects that could stave off diabetes</a>, according to WebMD. But a 2006 study of more than 17,000 Japanese adults found that drinking at least six cups of green tea a day <a href="http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=722135">lowered a person's risk of diabetes by about a third</a>, while other types of tea <a href="http://www.diabetes.org/news-research/research/access-diabetes-research/iso-coffee-green-tea.html">didn't offer any protection</a>, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Those same polyphenols seem to block cholesterol absorption, contributing to lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels. However, the effect is not enormous -- a 2011 study found <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/17/us-tea-idUSTRE7AG0BD20111117">LDL levels dropped only about five or six points</a>. "If someone is already taking medication for their cholesterol, they should stick with it and not to trade it for green tea," study author Olivia Phung, an assistant professor of pharmacy at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, told Reuters Health.
That same famed EGCG also seems to protect your grey matter. Green tea sparks <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905083852.htm">new brain cell growth</a>, according to a 2012 study conducted in mice, bolstering memory and learning.