A compound in green tea – the polyphenol EGCG – has a powerful ability to increase the number of ‘regulatory T cells’ (Tregs), which are critical in maintaining healthy immune balance and suppressing damaging autoimmune activity, according to new research at Oregon University’s Linus Pauling Institute.
In fact, the researchers suggest this ability to support balanced Treg activity “may be one of the underlying mechanisms for the health benefits of green tea, which has attracted wide interest for its ability to help control inflammation, improve immune function and prevent cancer.”
Pharmaceutical drugs are used to increase Treg activity in rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, and have been the subject of much research. But they have problems with toxicity, says Prinicipal Researcher Emily Ho, PhD, who led the study.
While green tea EGCG’s effects appear less potent than some of the drugs, says Dr. Ho, it is a natural plant-based food product that might provide a long-term, sustainable way to accomplish this same goal without toxicity.
Natural Support of Healthy Gene Expression
Based on in vitro analyses verified by animal studies, EGCG appears to act through a natural “epigenetic mechanism,” says Dr. Ho, meaning that it influences “what gets expressed, what cells get turned on” without changing the underlying DNA codes. “And we may be able to do this with a simple, whole-food approach.”
Their findings were published online June 4 by Immunology Letters (See “Induction of regulatory T cells by green tea polyphenol EGCG.”)
Source: Linus Pauling Institute news release, June 4, 2011, Immunity Letters.