According to the latest research a compound in green tea may provide therapeutic benefits to people with rheumatoid arthritis.
In a new study by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System it is suggested that the compound, called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), inhibited the production of several molecules in the immune system that contribute to inflammation and joint damage in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Lead researcher Salah-uddin Ahmed says the new study was conducted in the laboratory, and the findings are at the preliminary stage.
The study entailed Ahmed isolating the cells called synovial fibroblasts from the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis which form a lining of tissue surrounding the capsule of the joints.
The cells were then cultured and exposed to the EGCG; the cells were then stimulated with a protein of the immune system called cytokine interleukin-1 beta or IL-1B which is known to be instrumental in causing the joint degradation in rheumatoid arthritis.
Ahmed's team had found in an earlier study that fibroblasts pre-treated with EGCG and then stimulated with cytokine IL-1B were better able to block IL-1B's ability to produce damaging proteins and enzymes.
The researchers had also found earlier that EGCG significantly blocked the two molecules and also blocked the production of prostaglandin E2, another compound that can cause joint inflammation.
Experts say Ahmed's research is one of the first to focus on rheumatoid arthritis and green tea, and the results support other research which has suggested that green tea may help protect against certain autoimmune diseases.
They say if the research bears up it will be good news for rheumatoid arthritis patients, offering them a non-drug option to help control their pain.
Ahmed says though it is too early to advise rheumatoid arthritis patients to drink green tea, as it is known to have many health benefits and no known side effects, drinking green tea certainly will not hurt.
Ahmed says people might try drinking three or four 8-ounce cups of green tea per day to keep blood levels more constant.
According to the Arthritis Foundation as many as 2.1 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.