According to new research from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, one of the beneficial compounds found in green tea has a powerful ability to increase the number of "regulatory T cells" that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease.
This 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.
Green Tea Compound and Immunity
"This appears to be a natural, plant-derived compound that can affect the number of regulatory T cells, and in the process improve immune function," said Emily Ho, an LPI principal investigator and associate professor in the OSU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.
(Learn: Green Tea – Know What Herbs Do What)
Benefits of Green Tea Studied
In this study, OSU scientists did experiments with a compound in green tea, a polyphenol called EGCG, which is believed to be responsible for much of health benefits of green tea and has both anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer characteristics. They found it could cause a higher production of regulatory T cells. Its effects were not as potent as some of those produced by prescription drugs, however.
There are many types of cells that have different roles in the immune system, which is a delicate balancing act of attacking unwanted invaders without damaging normal cells. In autoimmune diseases, which can range from simple allergies to juvenile diabetes or even terminal conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, this process goes awry and the body mistakenly attacks itself.
Some cells exist primarily to help control that problem and dampen or "turn off" the immune system, including regulatory T cells. The number and proper function of those regulatory T cells, in turn, is regulated by other biological processes such as transcription factors and DNA methylation.
"EGCG may have health benefits through an epigenetic mechanism, meaning we aren’t changing the underlying DNA codes, but just influencing what gets expressed, what cells get turned on," Ho said. "And we may be able to do this with a simple, whole-food approach."
Spread the Health by forwarding this article to your friends and family, and sharing on Facebook.
Reference: The research was done by scientists from OSU, the University of Connecticut, and Changwon National University in South Korea. The work was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station. The findings have been published in Immunology Letters, a professional journal
Source: Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University