Groundbreaking research funded by the British Heart Foundation has found that green tea may be able to prevent fatal heart attacks and strokes caused by the hardening and narrowing of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.
This compound is also being analyzed for its ability to reduce amyloid plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Atherosclerosis is the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries that can dangerously limit the flow of blood to the heart and brain. Once the condition progresses, a protein called apolipoprotein A-1 (apoA) can form amyloid deposits which build up within atherosclerotic plaques and make them larger. This further restricts blood flow, and increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The compound epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is most commonly found in green tea, was discovered to bind to the amyloid fibers of apoA. This process converts the fibers to soluble molecules that are smaller and less likely to cause damage to blood vessels.
“Our bodies are very good at breaking down EGCG so swapping your cuppa for green tea is unlikely to make a big difference with respect to your heart health,” explained study co-author Professor Jeremy Pearson. “But by engineering the molecule slightly, we might be able to make new medicines to treat heart attack and stroke.”
The team is working to develop a method of introducing EGCG directly into the bloodstream.
“The health benefits of green tea have been widely promoted and it has been known for some time that EGCG can alter the structures of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease,” said study co-author David Middleton.
“Our results show that this intriguing compound might also be effective against the types of plaques which can cause heart attacks and strokes.”
“The findings of this round of studies are very encouraging,” said study co-author Professor Sheena Radford. “We now need to apply the best scientific techniques to find how we can take the molecular EGCG element from green tea, and turn it into a functioning tool to combat life-limiting health issues.”
The research is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.