Amazing molecule in popular tea type could help prevent heart attacks

1 Jun 2018

Image: 5 second Studio/Shutterstock

Those out there who drink green tea might be pleased to know that a particular molecule found in its leaves could reduce the risk of heart attacks.

For centuries, green tea has been seen as having a number of medicinal properties, ranging from better digestion to regulating body temperature.

A new study has taken things even further with the claim that a particular molecule found in green tea could help a person avoid having a heart attack or stroke later in life.

Future Human

According to a team of scientists from Lancaster University and the University of Leeds, a compound found in the tea directly targets a disease called atherosclerosis which results in the build-up of fatty material inside our arteries.

This build-up reduces the flow of blood to the heart and brain and in advanced stages a protein called apolipoprotein A-1 (apoA-1) can form amyloid deposits, similar in structure to those associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

These deposits then eventually build-up within atherosclerotic plaques increasing its size but also making it more unstable, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Detailing their findings in a paper to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the team found that the compound called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) – commonly found in green tea – binds to the amyloid fibres of apoA-1, thereby converting the fibres into smaller molecules that are less likely to damage blood vessels.

Finding a way to harness it

Now the team is trying to find ways of introducing effective amounts of EGCG into the bloodstream without having to go through the challenge of drinking enormous – and potentially dangerous – amounts of green tea.

This could be possible if the chemical structure of EGCG is altered to make it easier to be absorbed by the stomach and more resistant to metabolism, or developing new methods to deliver the molecule to the plaques such as via an injection.

Sadly this means that, in the meantime, your regular cup of green tea is unlikely to make a difference in your heart health.

Either way, Prof Sheena Radford, director of the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds and co-author of the research, has described the findings as “very encouraging”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic