Green Tea: Lesson 8 Green Tea and Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a lifelong disease marked by high levels of blood sugar. These high levels of blood sugar can cause several problems including: blurry vision, excessive thirst, fatigue and many more.

Glucose (blood sugar) is what we use for fuel. It travels the bloodstream looking for cells in need of energy. Once the glucose has found a cell in need of it’s energy, it needs the help of insulin to attach itself. Insulin works as the key to get the glucose into the locked door of the cell.

There are two reasons diabetes takes hold: either the body does not produce enough insulin to get the glucose into the cells, or the insulin fails to unlock the cell to allow the sugar to enter. Why does this miscommunication occur? The most common cause is obesity. When too many fat cells surround the healthy cells, they can block the insulin from allowing the glucose in. In this case, there is plenty of glucose to go around, it just can’t make it into the cell. Imagine your favorite meal is sitting right in front of you, but you are unable to open your mouth to eat. The other scenario is that there is simply not enough insulin being produced. Not enough fuel in the tank.

In both cases the result is the same. The cells are not receiving the glucose they need and are starved for energy. While this is happening, the cells are still sending signals to the brain that they are hungry and the body produces more and more glucose. This causes blood sugar levels to rise drastically. This excess glucose wreaks havoc on the body. The long-term effects can be devastating. Some of the common effects are gangrene, ulcers, kidney failure and blindness. Diabetes also raises a person’s risk for heart disease and stroke because it makes the blood vessels harder and more likely to become clogged with plaque.

How Can Drinking Green Tea Help?

Green tea goes right to the core of the problem: the formation of the blood glucose. Glucose is one of the building blocks of complex carbohydrates (starches). The starch molecule is like a string of pearls, with each pearl representing a molecule of glucose. Your body is unable to absorb a whole starch molecule. These molecules must be broken apart. A special enzyme called amylase does this. This enzyme acts like a pair of scissors and cuts each pearl loose from the string. Ones the molecules are separated from the string they are able to be absorbed into the bloodstream and used as fuel.

Green tea polyphenols have been found to be potent inhibitors of amylase. Basically, the green tea dulls the enzymes cutting power and makes the scissors “worthless”.

Laboratory tests have shown that the amount of polyphenols in just one cup of green tea can inhibit up to 87% of amylase’s activity. If less sugar gets into the bloodstream, blood glucose levels will automatically be lowered.

Does it work?

Scientists certainly think so. One study found that feeding green tea catechins to rats reduced both blood glucose and insulin levels. They also found that the green tea catechins were extremely effective starch and sucrose blockers in the digestive tracts of the rats. Yes, similar results were found in humans. When subjects were given 300mg of green tea catechins ten minutes before taking 50g of starch, their glucose and insulin levels raised much less than expected.

In addition to its ability to block starch, green tea may also help burn excess fat. Fat as you recall is the main cause of diabetes.