In what will come as a surprise, and a disappointment to many advcates, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said last week that drinking green tea is highly unlikely to help prevent breast, prostate or any other type of cancer.
The FDA said, after reviewing the evidence to support the health claim, only one "weak and limited" study shows that drinking green tea can reduce the risk of prostate cancer, and existing evidence does not support qualified health claims for green tea consumption with a reduced risk of any other type of cancer.
The increasing number of consumers, both in the US and Europe, buying green tea for its widely reported health benefits has been fuelled by a number of studies in recent years which have suggested that compounds in green tea appear to slow the growth of cancer cells in the lab, while epidemiological studies have shown an association between green tea drinking and a lower risk of breast and prostate cancer.
Recent research has found that consumption of green tea products in the UK has increased 87 per cent between 2000 and 2003, and analysts say the health issue is probably the most important factor behind this growth.
Most of the research on green tea has focused on its potential to help prevent cancer, but the FDA says there is scant science to support this claim.
The FDA did not however comment on green tea extracts nor purified epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant found in the tea that is often studied for its anti-cancer effects.