Green tea is so good for you that according to one scientist, cited by the medical site WebMD, “it’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink,” but new research by chemists at Israel’s Tel Aviv University may have enhanced the reputation of the traditional Japanese beverage even further.
The news coming out of the Tel Aviv study is not only good for green tea fanatics. Wine guzzlers can take heart as well. Their favorite libation has also been found to contain elements that, the researchers say, could bring new hope for children born with genetic disorders that normally can be treated only by adherence to strict dietary requirements, such as the disease phenylketonuria — a condition that can lead to intellectual disabilities and even serious brain damage if not treated correctly, according to the National Institute of Health.
In a paper published in the latest edition of the journal Communications Chemistry, the scientists say that certain compounds found in green tea and in wine have the effect of blocking toxic metabolites, that is, substances that are used by the body to form DNA and proteins, but which build up to harmful or even fatal levels when they are not processed by human metabolism.
Children born with a “defective gene” that prevents proper metabolizing of these substances must adhere to rigorous diets to prevent the metabolites from accumulating to toxic levels in the bloodstream. For example, in the case of phenylketonuria, the body fails to process phenylalanine, a necessary amino acid that becomes dangerous when too much of it is allowed to stay in the body.
But according to a summary of the new study published by Science Daily, epigallocatechin gallate, better known by its abbreviation EGCG — a substance that occurs naturally in green tea — as well as the tannic acid that is found in red wines, can both be useful in blocking the formation of “toxic metabolites” — a discovery which the scientists say can lead to the creation of new drugs to treat phenylketonuria and other genetic metabolic diseases.
Treating phenylketonuria with diet, according to study co-author Shira Shaman-Liv, “is an incredibly difficult task, since phenylalanine is found in most of the food products that we consume. The avoidance of certain substances is the only way to prevent the debilitating long-term effects of inborn congenital metabolic disorders. We hope that our new approach will facilitate the development of new drugs to treat these disorders.”
While research focused on applying tannic acids and EGCG to cell clusters in test tubes, the researchers also relied on computer simulations to conduct their experiments, and in both cases, the results were “promising” in showing that the naturally occurring compounds could block the toxic metabolites from forming.
“Our new study demonstrates once again the ability of nature to produce the best candidate of drugs to treat some of the worst human maladies,” Shaman-Niv said.