Green tea component may prevent heart attack, stroke

A compound found in green tea can break up the plaque that causes atherosclerosis, according to research published May 31 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) binds to amyloid fibers of apolipoprotein A-1, which forms deposits within atherosclerotic plaques. According to a press release about the research, the deposits make the plaques larger and less stable, which can restrict blood flow or cause pieces of the plaque to break off and lead to heart attacks and strokes.

But when EGCG binds to the amyloid fibers it shrinks them and makes them more soluble—and therefore less dangerous.

"The health benefits of green tea have been widely promoted and it has been known for some time that EGCG can alter the structures of amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease,” lead author David Middleton, PhD, a professor of chemistry at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, said in the release. "Our results show that this intriguing compound might also be effective against the types of plaques which can cause heart attacks and strokes."

The researchers said a normal amount of green tea is unlikely to have a significant effect on heart health. However, they believe other methods of delivering more potent, targeted amounts of EGCG into the bloodstream could help fight atherosclerosis.

"The findings of this round of studies are very encouraging,” said coauthor Sheena Radford, PhD, BSc. “We now need to apply the best scientific techniques to find how we can take the molecular EGCG element from green tea and turn it into a functioning tool to combat life-limiting health issues."