Greenteahaus:  The Green Tea Reference Library

Natural green tea drink is safe; but concentrated green tea extract can be toxic to the liver

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1 Natural green tea is safe to drink up to 960 ml three times a day in cancer patients J Clin Oncol. 2001 Mar 15;19(6):1830-8.
2 Extracts of green tea may be hazardous to health Food Chem Toxicol. 2005 Feb;43(2):307-14.
3 High-dose green tea extracts may cause cancer to grow:  Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 activation by (-)-epicatechin gallate: potential adverse effects of cancer chemoprevention with high-dose green tea extracts. J Nat Prod. 2004 Dec;67(12):2063-9.

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1 Pisters KM, Newman RA, Coldman B, Shin DM, Khuri FR, Hong WK, Glisson BS, Lee JS. Phase I trial of oral green tea extract in adult patients with solid tumors. J Clin Oncol. 2001 Mar 15;19(6):1830-8.

PURPOSE: This trial was designed to determine the maximum-tolerated dose, toxicity, and pharmacology of oral green tea extract (GTE) once daily or three times daily. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Cohorts of three or more adult cancer patients were administered oral GTE with water after meals one or three times daily for 4 weeks, to a maximum of 6 months, depending on disease response and patient tolerance. Pharmacokinetic analyses were encouraged but optional. RESULTS: Dose levels of 0.5 to 5.05 g/m(2) qd and 1.0 to 2.2 g/m(2) tid were explored. A total of 49 patients were studied. Patient characteristics: median age, 57 years (range, 27 to 77 years); 23 patients were women (47%); 98% had a Zubrod PS of 1%; 98% had PS of 1; and 21 had non-small-cell lung, 19 had head & neck cancer, three had mesothelioma, and six had other. Mild to moderate toxicities were seen at most dose levels and promptly reversed on discontinuation of GTE. Dose-limiting toxicities were caffeine related and included neurologic and gastrointestinal effects. The maximum-tolerated dose was 4.2 g/m(2) once daily or 1.0 g/m(2) three times daily. No major responses occurred; 10 patients with stable disease completed 6 months of GTE. Pharmacokinetic analyses found accumulation of caffeine levels that were dose dependent, whereas epigallocatechin gallate levels did not accumulate nor appear dose related. CONCLUSION: A dose of 1.0 g/m(2) tid (equivalent to 7 to 8 Japanese cups [120 mL] of green tea three times daily) is recommended for future studies. The side effects of this preparation of GTE were caffeine related. Oral GTE at the doses studied can be taken safely for at least 6 months.
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Schmidt M, Schmitz HJ, Baumgart A, Guedon D, Netsch MI, Kreuter MH, Schmidlin CB, Schrenk D. Toxicity of green tea extracts and their constituents in rat hepatocytes in primary culture. Food Chem Toxicol. 2005 Feb;43(2):307-14.

Recent reports on sporadic cases of liver disorders (acute hepatitis, icterus, hepatocellular necrosis) after ingestion of dietary supplements based on hydro-alcoholic extracts from green tea leaves led to restrictions of the marketing of such products in certain countries of the EU. Since green tea is considered to exert a number of beneficial health effects, and, therefore, green tea products are widely used as dietary supplements, we were interested in the possible mechanism of hepatotoxicity of green tea extracts and in the components involved in such effects. Seven hours after seeding on collagen, rat hepatocytes in primary culture were treated with various hydro-alcoholic green tea extracts (two different native 80% ethanolic dry extracts and an 80% ethanolic dry extract cleared from lipophilic compounds). Cells were washed, and reduction of resazurin, used as a viability parameter monitoring intact mitochondrial function, was determined. It was found that all seven green tea extracts examined enhanced resazurin reduction significantly at a concentration range of 100-500mug/ml medium, while a significant decrease was observed at 1-3mg/ml medium. Decreased levels were concomitant with abundant necrosis as observed by microscopic inspection of the cultures and with increased leakage of lactate dehydrogenase activity from the cells. In a separate series of experiments, the green tea constituents (-)-epicatechin, (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate, caffeine and theanine were tested at concentrations reflecting their levels in a typical green tea extract. Synthetic (+)-epigallocatechin (200muM) was used for comparison. Cytotoxicity was found with (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate only. The concomitant addition of 0.25mM ascorbate/0.05mM alpha-tocopherol had no influence on cytotoxicity. In conclusion, our results suggest that high concentrations of green tea extract can exert acute toxicity in rat liver cells. (-)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate seems to be a key constituent responsible for this effect. The relatively low bioavailability of catechins reported after oral exposure to green tea argues, however, against a causal role of these constituents in the reported liver disorders..
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3 Zhou YD, Kim YP, Li XC, Baerson SR, Agarwal AK, Hodges TW, Ferreira D, Nagle DG. Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 activation by (-)-epicatechin gallate: potential adverse effects of cancer chemoprevention with high-dose green tea extracts. J Nat Prod. 2004 Dec;67(12):2063-9.

National Center for Natural Products Research and Department of Pharmacognosy, Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, P.O. Box 1848, University of Mississippi, University, Mississippi 38677, USA.

Hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) is a transcription factor that induces oxygen-regulated genes in response to reduced oxygen conditions (hypoxia). Expression of the oxygen-regulated HIF-1alpha subunit correlates positively with advanced disease stages and poor prognosis in cancer patients. Green tea catechins are believed to be responsible for the cancer chemopreventive activities of green tea. We found that (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG, 1), one of the major green tea catechins, strongly activates HIF-1 in T47D human breast carcinoma cells. Among the green tea catechins tested, 1 demonstrated the strongest HIF-1-inducing activity, while (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG, 2) was significantly less active. However, 2 is relatively unstable in the in vitro system studied. Compound 1 also increases the expression of HIF-1 target genes including GLUT-1, VEGF, and CDKN1A. In T47D cells, 1 induces nuclear HIF-1alpha protein without affecting HIF-1alpha mRNA. Both the induction of HIF-1alpha protein and activation of HIF-1 by 1 can be blocked by iron and ascorbate, indicating that 1 may activate HIF-1 through the chelation of iron. These results suggest that intended cancer chemoprevention with high-dose green tea extracts may be compromised, by the ability of tea catechins to promote tumor cell survival pathways associated with HIF-1 activation.
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