Green Tea and Tai Chi–a Healthy Partnership

Green tea has become an international mainstay beyond the Orient.   Many observational studies have shown that green tea is full of potent polyphenols (an antioxidant) that lower the risk of several chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis.  A recent study from Dr. Chwan-Li (Leslie)  Shen, an associate professor and a researcher at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center looked at the mechanism behind this correlation and believes it may have to do with lowering chronic levels of inflammation.

Dr. Shen has developed an animal model to study  green tea consumption and its protective effect on the breakdown of the bone’s microarchitecture.  In humans, this can lead to osteoporosis, a condition common in postmenopausal women.  In her most recent study, she investigated the potential for green tea to work synergistically with tai chi, a moderately aerobic exercise popular among Chinese cultures.  Together, can these two interventions enhance bone strength?

Her randomized controlled study (the gold standard) included 171 postmenopausal women (average age was 57) who had weak bones but not full fledged osteoporosis.  They were divided into 4 groups:

  • Placebo (starch pill) and no tai chi
  • Green tea polyphenols (GTP)  and no tai chi (TC)
  • Placebo and tai chi
  • GTP plus TC

Blood and urine samples were collected on all women for 6 months and muscle strength assessed..

The GTP + TC group showed enhanced markers of bone health and muscle strength at 3 and 6 months.   Of greatest interest was the Dr. Shen’s finding that both GTP and TC had on biological markers of oxidative stress, the precursor to inflammation.  Inflammation is not only a factor in osteoporosis but other chronic diseases as well.  Her findings were presented in a poster at the Experimental biology meetings in April.   Further studies are needed to confirm and better understand the mechanisms involved.

In the meantime, drinking green tea and trying tai chi sounds like a good idea, especially for premenopausal women!