Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Green tea: beverage, not medicine

Heart Beat

Green tea: beverage, not medicine

Is green tea good for your heart? Not according to the FDA, which has rejected a tea company's claim that drinking a cup of green tea a day might help ward off heart disease.

Ito En, Ltd. of Japan and North America wanted to put this health claim on packages of green tea: "Daily consumption of at least 5 fluid ounces (150 mL) of green tea as a source of catechins may reduce a number of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease." (Catechins are plant compounds in the flavonoid family that can act as powerful antioxidants.) In its petition to the FDA, the company claimed that drinking green tea or taking green tea extract lowers blood pressure and cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD, meaning heart disease or stroke).

But the FDA concluded what we did in 2002: The connection between tea drinking and protection against heart disease isn't much stronger than a cuppa tea made with a used teabag. In the FDA's words, "there is no credible evidence to support a relationship between consumption of green tea or green tea extract and a reduced risk of CVD." In 2005 the FDA rejected a similar petition for labels claiming that green tea prevented "certain forms" of cancer.

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