Theaflavin & Serum Cholesterol
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | April 4, 2003

The Executive Summary of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) recently reported that low-density cholesterol (LDL-C) should be the focus of treatment in adults with high cholesterol. The reason is that the LDL-C, commonly known as the "bad" or "lethal" cholesterol, is associated with a higher incidence of heart attacks (see the Newsletter dated 2/18/03). The typical way to reduce cholesterol includes dietary changes, increasing physical activity, taking food supplements such as fish oil, and if necessary, the use of prescription medications. Based on a study published in the Arichives of Internal Medicine, there may be another option.

Theaflavins and catechins are phytonutrients called polyphenols. They are produced in the fermentation process when making black tea from green tea. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers provided a food supplement that contained a concentrated blend of theaflavins and catechins to subjects with elevated LDL-C levels. Subjects were already eating a low-fat diet and did not otherwise change their lifestyle. After 12 weeks, the researchers discovered an 11% decrease in total cholesterol and most importantly, a 16% decrease in LDL-C. That means that a person with an LDL-C reading of 150 mg/dl would reduce their serum LDL-C to below 130 mg/dl. There were no side effects in those taking the food supplement.

So what do these results mean to someone with an elevated cholesterol level? Most important, it means that you must change your lifestyle to lower your cholesterol. These subjects were eating better but were not able to lower their LDL-C enough. Theaflavins possibly could be used in conjunction with other lifestyle changes to avoid the use of cholesterol-lowering medications.

Two points: first, you cannot possibly take enough food supplements to overcome a poor lifestyle. Lifestyle change is the key. You can pay the price in terms of time and effort in adopting a healthy lifestyle or you will pay for cardiac rehabilitation and medications. But either way, you will pay.

Second, discuss any changes you make in your lifestyle--whether in eating habits or taking food supplements--with your physicians. That's the only way they can monitor changes in your serum lipids. Because every physician wants to see the research before considering food supplements, we've printed the entire abstract from the Archives article below. Just print it and take it along on your next visit.

Reference

  1. Executive Summary of the Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) JAMA; 2001. 285 (19) 2486-97.
Abstract

David J. Maron, et al. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN

Cholesterol-lowering effect of a theaflavin-enriched green tea extract: a randomized controlled trial.

Arch Intern Med; 2003.163(12):1448-53.

BACKGROUND: Tea consumption has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk, but potential mechanisms of benefit are ill-defined. While epidemiologic studies suggest that drinking multiple cups of tea per day lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), previous trials of tea drinking and administration of green tea extract have failed to show any impact on lipids and lipoproteins in humans. Our objective was to study the impact of a theaflavin-enriched green tea extract on the lipids and lipoproteins of subjects with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia.

METHODS: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial set in outpatient clinics in 6 urban hospitals in China. A total of 240 men and women 18 years or older on a low-fat diet with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia were randomly assigned to receive a daily capsule containing theaflavin-enriched green tea extract (375 mg) or placebo for 12 weeks. Main outcome measures were mean percentage changes in total cholesterol, LDL-C, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglyceride levels compared with baseline.

RESULTS: After 12 weeks, the mean +/- SEM changes from baseline in total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C, and triglyceride levels were -11.3% +/- 0.9% (P =.01), -16.4% +/- 1.1% (P =.01), 2.3% +/- 2.1% (P =.27), and 2.6% +/- 3.5% (P =.47), respectively, in the tea extract group. The mean levels of total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C, and triglycerides did not change significantly in the placebo group. No significant adverse events were observed.

CONCLUSION: The theaflavin-enriched green tea extract we studied is an effective adjunct to a low-saturated-fat diet to reduce LDL-C in hypercholesterolemic adults and is well tolerated.

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