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Japanese Matcha Tea: Health Benefits and Harms. Scientific Research


  • Japanese Matcha Tea: Health Benefits and Harms. Scientific Research

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    Japanese matcha green tea has become incredibly popular recently. Today, it can be found in the menu of restaurants and cafes in the form of tea, lattes, and even as part of desserts, such as ice cream.

    Green tea and matcha tea we are used to have the same parent: the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference between them is in the way of cultivation, which determines the unique composition of nutrients.

    For 20-30 days before harvesting matcha tea, it is protected from direct sunlight. This enhances the production of chlorophyll, which gives the plants a dark green color. As a result, the content of some amino acids in the leaves increases.

    After collecting this tea, the stalks and veins are removed from the leaves and they are ground into a powder called matcha.

    Matcha tea powder contains nutrients from all over the tea leaf (primarily catechins and caffeine) and their concentration in it is significantly higher than in green tea. They mainly determine its useful properties.

    Below we will look at what scientific research says about the benefits and harms of Japanese matcha tea for human health.

    Useful properties of matcha tea

    1. Matcha tea is rich in antioxidants

    Antioxidants neutralize dangerous free radicals (oxidants) that damage cells and cause the development of chronic diseases.

    Free radicals are formed in the human body during metabolism and under the influence of external factors: chemical pollution, cigarette smoke, radiation, medications.

    When there are so many radicals in the body that it is not able to neutralize them, so-called oxidative stress occurs - a condition that is the main factor in the development of cancer, autoimmune diseases, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging of the body

    To fight free radicals, there are so-called antioxidants. They can be produced inside the body, as well as come from outside with food or additives. Japanese matcha tea is also a good source of them.

    Matcha tea powder has a fairly high content of catechins, which are natural antioxidants. There are significantly more of them in it than in green tea made from the same number of leaves: according to some estimates, more than 137 times15.

    In an animal experiment, it has been shown that drinking matcha tea together with fatty foods lowers the level of bad low-density cholesterol in the blood, increases the level of good low-density cholesterol, positively affects the level of glucose in the blood, and has antioxidant properties. ***

    2. Matcha tea is useful in the fight against cancer

    Matcha tea is very rich in a certain type of catechins - EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), which according to scientific data have an anti-cancer effect.

    In animal experiments, it has been shown that green tea extract (including matcha tea powder) reduces the size of tumors in breast cancer, as well as prevents the growth and reproduction of cancer cells 2.

    Green tea catechins can kill 16 cancer cells, including prostate cancer,3,21pancreatic cancer, 25 skin cancer, 24 and liver cancer. 11

    However, it should also be noted that almost all of these studies were carried out in the laboratory, in a test tube. More thorough research is needed to confirm its real effectiveness.

    Catechins contained in matcha tea powder may be useful for treating and preventing cancer

    3. Matcha tea is good for the liver

    The liver plays an important role in digestion, as well as removing toxins from the body and products of drug metabolism.

    Numerous scientific studies on the benefits and harms of matcha green tea indicate that its use reduces the risk of liver diseases, including liver cancer, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and chronic liver disease. 23,19

    The use of green tea extract improves the condition of patients with fatty liver, leading to a decrease in the levels of enzymes that are indicators of its damage 26.

    Experiments on mice with diabetes have shown the protective effect of matcha tea against liver and kidney damage, which is a common consequence of diabetes 12.

    However, it is important to understand that the effect of any products and substances on the human body is complex and requires more thorough research on the benefits and harms of matcha tea for the liver since most of the available experiments are performed on animals.

    The scientific literature describes cases of severe liver damage when drinking green tea (see the section on the harm of matcha tea).

    Scientific research suggests that Japanese matcha tea may be good for liver health. However, more thorough human studies are required

    4. Matcha tea stimulates brain function

    Drinking matcha tea powder in the form of tea or tablets can significantly improve attention, reaction time, and memory 4, including in the elderly 9.

    A possible explanation for this effect may be the content of caffeine in matcha tea, the dose of which is much higher in it than in green leaf tea: 90 mg in a cup of 300 ml 30.

    Caffeine is a stimulant of the nervous system and its use activates brain function by the same metrics: reaction time, attention, memory, learning ability 13.

    Also, matcha tea powder contains L-thianine, an amino acid that eliminates some of the side effects of caffeine, in particular, the vasoconstrictor effect and the effect on mood, which may explain the positive effects described above 7.

    L-tyanine has a direct effect on the brain, increasing the amplitude of the so-called alpha waves, which allows you to relax the brain without causing a state of drowsiness. From a practical point of view, this can mean reducing stress levels while maintaining brain activity 10 - as opposed to antidepressants.

    One of the useful properties of matcha tea is to increase attention, memory, reaction time, and cognitive function of the brain. This may be due to the content of caffeine and L-thianine in it

    5. The Benefits of matcha tea for the heart

    Cardiovascular diseases are one of the main causes of death in our time.

    Statistical studies suggest that regular consumption of green tea (including matcha tea) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and heart attack, but not stroke. 16,27

    A likely explanation is a decrease in the level of bad low-density cholesterol in the blood of 2.19, as well as triglycerides - the main culprits of impaired patency of blood vessels due to the formation of blood clots on their walls (atherosclerosis).

    6. Matcha tea can be useful for weight loss

    Green tea extract is the active ingredient in many fat burners and has proven benefits for weight loss. The reason is still the same - catechins and caffeine.

    Matcha tea increases the rate of internal metabolism - the energy needed to maintain the vital activity of our body, which accounts for about 70% of the daily calorie consumption.

    The higher the metabolic rate, the better the conditions for weight loss.

    Scientific research suggests that matcha tea can be useful for both weight loss and weight maintenance 22.

    How effective is it?

    One of them shows that the combination of caffeine + catechins increases daily energy expenditure by about ~200 calories 17.

    Is it too much or too little?

    The value is insignificant, comparable to the caloric content of a piece of bread.

    Moreover, data from individual studies generally refute the effect or suggest that it is insignificant. 28

    The authors of a meta-analysis of available studies of the benefits of matcha tea for weight loss show significant effectiveness of green tea catechins (matcha tea) for weight loss, which on average help to lose weight by 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg), but at the same time note a very large spread of results: somewhere more, somewhere less, and in some cases - no effect 20.

    The harm of green tea matcha to human health

    Matcha tea can be harmful to health if taken for a long time and in large doses.

    This is primarily due to the caffeine content in its composition, which is higher than in green tea: approximately 90 mg in a 300 ml cup***, compared to 32 mg in a cup of green tea *** and 200 mg in a cup of cappuccino from Starbucks.***

    Side effects of excess caffeine include both relatively harmless (headaches, nervousness, sleep disorders, vomiting, diarrhea, irritability, confusion) and more serious: heart rhythm disorders, muscle cramps, heart pain.

    An overdose of caffeine can be very dangerous to health, even fatal. The lethal dose of caffeine is 10-15 g.

    In scientific literature, cases of serious liver damage (acute liver intoxication) have been recorded when using green tea and food additives containing its extract. 18,5

    The concentration of active substances in the extract is significantly higher than in green tea and matcha tea powder, however, with regular use in large doses, the risk of negative side effects can be equally high.

    Scientists emphasize that the harm of matcha tea (green tea) is determined by the same ingredients that are responsible for its beneficial properties.

    Contraindications for the use of matcha tea

    Doctors do not recommend using matcha tea, as well as other types of green tea and its extract, for children, as well as for people with liver diseases.

    It is also recommended to take it with food.

    If you experience any symptoms of liver damage (yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, increased sweating and fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, loss of appetite), stop drinking matcha tea, and consult a doctor.


    Main thoughts:
    • Matcha tea is a source of catechins - natural antioxidants that play an important role in the fight against chronic diseases
    • Catechins contained in matcha tea powder may be useful for treating and preventing cancer
    • Scientific research suggests that Japanese matcha tea may be good for liver health. However, more thorough human studies are required
    • One of the useful properties of matcha tea is increasing attention, memory, reaction time, and cognitive function of the brain. This may be due to the content of caffeine and L-thianine in it
    • Research confirms the benefits of matcha tea for cardiovascular health, but not for stroke control
    • Matcha tea can be useful for weight loss
    • The harm of matcha tea is determined primarily by the content of caffeine in its composition. It can be dangerous to use it for a long time in large doses. There is also a risk of liver damage

    Matcha tea powder is obtained from the same plant as our usual green tea. Unlike green tea, it has a much higher concentration of catechins and other useful substances that explain both its useful and harmful properties.

    Among the useful properties are benefits for the heart, liver, brain function, weight loss, and in the fight against cancer.

    Matcha tea is relatively safe for health, however, care should be taken, as exceeding the dosage can be harmful to liver health.


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    Last edited by Rebecca Nigel; 09-05-2020, 08:23 PM.

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