Green Tea May Protect Against Rheumatoid Arthritis

Green tea has been touted as a miracle beverage for years, helping with everything from weight loss to longevity to cancer prevention. But can it help protect against rheumatoid arthritis? A 2008 animal study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, points to the possibility that the drink may indeed curb the disease.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and Rutgers University in New Jersey had rats drink green tea-laced water for one to three weeks, then injected them with a bacteria designed to cause arthritis. A control group of rats drank plain water before receiving the bacteria. The findings? The rats who drank the green tea had significantly lower levels of rheumatoid arthritis than the plain-water drinkers. These findings are in line with those of two other studies done on humans that point to green tea's role in curbing inflammation. In one study, cells from people with rheumatoid arthritis were extracted and treated with a green-tea component. When they were later subjected to an inflammatory chemical that causes joint damage, the cells were able to fight off the destruction. Cells that hadn't been pre-treated with the green-tea component could not do that. In a second study, the salivary glands of water drinkers were compared with those of green-tea drinkers. The tea drinkers' salivary glands had fewer white blood cells-which are infection fighters-than the others. Over time, the salivary glands of the tea drinkers also showed less damage.

On the flip side, a recent study out of Georgetown University claims that drinking a lot of tea in general is associated with a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The study, the results of which were presented at this year's annual meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism, collected data on women who were part of the long-term Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. The study authors claim that women who drank any amount of tea had a higher risk of being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis than women who drank no tea at all. Drinking coffee appeared to have no effect on the disease. The study did not specify whether the tea was green tea or some other kind.




Arthritis Foundation,;

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine,;

European League Against Rheumatism,