Matcha Tea

May 14, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

It’s frothy. It’s green. It’s a type of tea, but decidedly different looking and tasting than most brews. It’s matcha! Whether you’ve tried it or not, you’ve probably seen matcha-based drinks being sold in coffee shops and health food stores from Los Angeles to Tokyo. The claim is that matcha is essentially an elevated form of green tea. But, is this assertion backed up by anything more than historical accounts and slick advertisements?

First let’s examine what makes matcha different than black, green and, even, white tea. For one thing, it isn’t fermented. Rather, whole tea leaves are gently steamed, dried and then ground, traditionally using a stone mill. The preparation of matcha also parts ways with the steeping process used to infuse the essence of other teas. Matcha comes in a powdered form and is whisked in hot water, no tea pot is necessary.

Much to my surprise, matcha hardly makes any appearances in the medical literature. There are thousands upon thousands of experiments and trials examining the health effects of black and green tea, but only a handful on matcha. The evidence currently available is based primarily on animal and in vitro research. The picture it paints is of a beverage that imparts potent antioxidant activity. Under experimental conditions, matcha protects against bladder cancer, diabetic-related damage to the kidneys and liver, and environmental pollutants (polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins).

Two substances are believed principally responsible for the benefits ascribed to matcha tea: epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and L-theanine. In fact, one examination found that matcha contains up to 137 times as much EGCG as conventional green tea. This may be relevant when you consider the latest findings about these tea components. A cursory review informs that they promote human health under a wide range of circumstances ranging from influenza prevention to slowing the progression of prostate cancer. However, it must be noted that the quantities of EGCG and theanine used in many of the noted interventions are higher than one would ingest in an occasional cup of matcha tea.

So, to drink matcha or not? I suspect that science will eventually get around to testing matcha tea in a manner that establishes its true relevance in human subjects. Until then, I think there’s enough theoretical basis to recommend drinking it. In particular, I would look for organic matcha products without added ingredients such as brown rice powder or maltodextrin. And, if you prefer a latte-style drink, I suggest using a non-dairy milk source (organic coconut milk or unsweetened almond milk) and monk fruit or stevia extract instead of artificial sweeteners or sugar.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Inhibition of Urinary Bladder Tumors Induced by N-Butyl-N- (link)

Study 2 - Matcha, a Powdered Green Tea, Ameliorates the Progression of Renal (link)

Study 3 - Effect of Green Tea (Matcha) on Gastrointestinal Tract Absorption of (link)

Study 4 - Determination of Catechins in Matcha Green Tea by Micellar(link)

Study 5 - Effect of 2-Month Controlled Green Tea Intervention on Lipoprotein (link)

Study 6 – Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Polyphenon E (link)

Study 7 - Protocol for MInimizing the Risk of Metachronous Adenomas (link)

Study 8 - Assessing the Effects of Caffeine and Theanine on the Maintenance (link)

Study 9 – The Effects of L-Theanine (Suntheanine®) on Objective Sleep Quality (link)

Study 10 - Effects of Green Tea Catechins and Theanine on Preventing Influenza (link)

L-Theanine Supplementation May Reduce Influenza Incidence

Source: BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Feb 21;11:15. (link)

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Posted in Detoxification, Diabetes, Food and Drink

6 Comments & Updates to “Matcha Tea”

  1. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    I drink matcha and pomegranate juice powder mixed 50/50 for my prostate cancer.

  2. JP Says:

    You’re a wise man, Iggy. The research on pomegranate re: PC continues to look good:

    http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/33/3/644.abstract

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP ☺

    oooh Matcha! My love! I do so much with that magic green powder: pure (higher quality Matcha) or in shakes with fruits especially banana, almondmilk or fresh or frozen apples and almond milk and berries are absolutely delicous with Matcha. The only problem: milk proteins and also soy milk proteins bind to the catechins of Matcha (and green tea polyphenols in general. Almond milk and coconut milk (or water for a Matcha Lemon Granita) is the best option for flavor and health. I did a diy apple sorbet: cut an apple (unpeeled)and froze em, pureed the apple with a little bit fresh lemon juice and matcha powder! Tastes great, also with frozen banana! A healthy and very yummy treat!

    Despite the intense creamy taste i’m really addicted to the calming effect due to l-theanine. Nothing puts me better in a alert & relaxed state of mind! LOVE IT!

    Hope scientist will use Matcha more often, because of the interessting interplay of EGCG, L-Theanine, GABA and Chlorophyll.

    Enjoy!

    Nina K.

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Nina,

    What an inventive recipe! Sounds delicious and healthy too! :)

    Thank you for pointing out the impact of soy protein re: EGCG. I’ve previously written about the impact of milk added to tea. But, I didn’t mention soy milk. Now, there’s a new study that supports exactly what you said:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/15226311p0484281/?MUD=MP

    Be well!

    JP

  5. JP Says:

    Updated 1/20/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26783711

    Antioxidants (Basel). 2015 May 27;4(2):373-393.

    Food Inhibits the Oral Bioavailability of the Major Green Tea Antioxidant Epigallocatechin Gallate in Humans.

    The bioavailability of the most abundant and most active green tea antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) remains uncertain. Therefore, the systemic absorption of EGCG was tested in healthy fasted humans. It was administered as capsules with water or with a light breakfast, or when incorporated within a strawberry sorbet. The results for plasma EGCG clearly revealed that taking EGCG capsules without food was better; the AUC was 2.7 and 3.9 times higher than when EGCG capsules were taken with a light breakfast (p = 0.044) or with EGCG imbedded in the strawberry sorbet (p = 0.019), respectively. This pattern was also observed for Cmax and Cav. Therefore, ingesting food at the same time as EGCG, whether it was imbedded or not in food, substantially inhibited the absorption of the catechin. As with some types of medications that are affected by food, it appears that EGCG should be taken without food in order to maximise its systemic absorption. Therefore, based on these findings, ingesting EGCG with water on an empty stomach is the most appropriate method for the oral delivery of EGCG in clinical trials where EGCG is to be investigated as a potential bioactive nutraceutical in humans.

    Be well!

    JP

  6. JP Says:

    Updated 11/07/16:

    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/acta-neuropsychiatrica/article/effects-of-chronic-l-theanine-administration-in-patients-with-major-depressive-disorder-an-open-label-study/0373674887BEA9598D911C7B274A3432

    Acta Neuropsychiatr. 2016 Jul 11:1-8.

    Effects of chronic l-theanine administration in patients with major depressive disorder: an open-label study.

    OBJECTIVE: l-theanine, an amino acid uniquely contained in green tea (Camellia sinensis), has been suggested to have various psychotropic effects. This study aimed to examine whether l-theanine is effective for patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) in an open-label clinical trial.

    METHODS: Subjects were 20 patients with MDD (four males; mean age: 41.0±14.1 years, 16 females; 42.9±12.0 years). l-theanine (250 mg/day) was added to the current medication of each participant for 8 weeks. Symptoms and cognitive functions were assessed at baseline, 4, and 8 weeks after l-theanine administration by the 21-item version of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD-21), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), Stroop test, and Brief Assessment of Cognition in Schizophrenia (BACS).

    RESULTS: HAMD-21 score was reduced after l-theanine administration (p=0.007). This reduction was observed in unremitted patients (HAMD-21>7; p=0.004) at baseline. Anxiety-trait scores decreased after l-theanine administration (p=0.012) in the STAI test. PSQI scores also decreased after l-theanine administration (p=0.030) in the unremitted patients at baseline. Regarding cognitive functions, response latency (p=0.001) and error rate (p=0.036) decreased in the Stroop test, and verbal memory (p=0.005) and executive function (p=0.016) were enhanced in the BACS test after l-theanine administration.

    CONCLUSION: Our study suggests that chronic (8-week) l-theanine administration is safe and has multiple beneficial effects on depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbance and cognitive impairments in patients with MDD. However, since this is an open-label study, placebo-controlled studies are required to consolidate the effects.

    Be well!

    JP

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