Green Tea Extract Benefits and Side Effects

By Kevin B. April 2nd, 2019

Green Tea Extract: What it is?

And furthermore… is it a safe option?

The questions stem from mounting research that many food extracts used for medicinal purposes contain too much of a good thing. In most cases, many foods and herbs have specific health benefits, and many companies are trying to derive the health benefits from the food without the calories, the necessary prep time, or added liquid consumption.

Green Tea Extract, also called GTE, is no exception to this. There are companies that are drawing the health benefits out of the green tea so that they may be consumed in higher concentration in convenient pill form. This extract may either be presented in a capsule form that contains high amounts of powdered green tea (far more than would be used in 4 cups of matcha) or a liquid filled capsule that contains a hyper-concentrated form of tea.

Why this is a Bad Thing…

As with a large number of things, the difference between something being medicinal and poisonous is in the overall dosage that is consumed. The differences between Green Tea and GTE are no exception.

An average cup of green tea has a good amount of polyphenols and catechins, and it is also the highest known concentration of EGCG (the world’s most powerful anti-oxidant). Even with these concentrations being considered very high, it still only makes up roughly 2% of your total cup of green tea. This is why when the Japanese enjoy 9-10 cups of green tea per day, they are getting great health benefits with minimal risk. In addition, EGCG is water soluble, which means that if you consume it with an appropriate amount of liquid (like a cup of tea), then excess EGCG that your body cannot use at the moment is flushed out.

The problem with these GTE supplements is that they do not have this built in safety feature; build up can occur within the body since the liquid may not be present to help clear out any excess EGCG. This is doubly dangerous when you realize that most of the supplements on the market that are GTE’s often contain approximately 500mg of EGCG per capsule.

The maximum recommended EGCG daily intake is 4.54 x the bodyweight of the patient. Your 150 pound man would want to have no more than 681 mg of EGCG entering into his body per day. Regardless of bodyweight, the recommended cap is 750 mg per day. When you consider that many of these GTE pills recommend taking 2-3 per day, you are easily getting into the danger zone.

Too much EGCG has been shown to go from being anti-oxidant to pro-oxidant. Pro-oxidants actually increase the presence of free radicals within the body, and many of these free radicals can cause liver damage. In fact, one of the largest findings present with GTE’s is that there does appear to be a correlation between there use and liver damage.

Where does Green Tea extract come from?

To be sure, GTE capsules do not source high end tea for use in their products, and determining where exactly the tea comes from is almost impossible. Because these supplements are sold over the counter at mass market chains, we can be reasonably certain that they do not use the premium teas sold by dedicated tea vendors. More likely they are purchasing remnants of tea production (i.e. fannings) or lower quality teas. Numerous studies have shown that lower quality teas are much more likely to contain pesticide residue, and these are potentially increased by the concentrated form of extracts.

A Better Alternative

It is clear that the unregulated business of supplements carries some risks. While the idea behind the GTE is a good one, more and more evidence is indicating that the use of GTE is not safe. If you really are looking for the health benefits that are associated with the naturally occurring compounds that are in Green Tea, the best bet is to simply drink green tea. Green tea has been shown to be safe and healthy, and it is less costly than the GTE supplements are. Matcha is also an excellent choice .

Not convinced? Some people may argue the following:

"I take one Green Tea Pill a Day and Feel Great"

Alright… this is possible. There are very different doses of GTE that are out there, and many of them offer a dose that is safe if consumed properly and in limited quantities. The problem that many people have is that they start to see whatever result it is that they want from a pill, and they begin to over consume GTE in a manner that over concentrates the EGCG within the body, which is potentially harmful, as stated in the previously posted article.

The other point that was mentioned was to take these supplements in accordance with the specific instructions that are posted on the package. In most cases, these instructions tell you to take the supplement with at least 8 ounces of water and/or to take these supplements with food. Often times, exceeding one of these pills with most brands is getting into the “danger zone” for consumption of EGCG and other known catechins. Like anything else, the difference between this being a medicine (word used loosely) and a poison is in the dosage consumed.

Basically, here is the thing. If you are taking one of these pills per day while following all of the directions provided on the package, and it is a high quality brand supplement, then you are likely safe.

However… I would like to point out that taking the supplement with water is basically transforming the green tea capsule into green tea in your body, which is a built in safety mechanism to prevent your body from over absorbing EGCG and other catechins. This is the same as drinking green tea, in a sense, and most people that care enough about their health to care about this article would probably agree that, 99% of the time, natural is always better. That being the case, while I won’t dispute safe use of GTE as potentially beneficial, I still believe that it is not as helpful as drinking green tea.

"GTE has helped with weight loss, so I don’t care what you say, this is GOOD for me"

This is an argument that could be presented, and in fact it has been presented.

While this makes sense to someone who is finally experiencing weight loss that they may have been struggling with, there are plenty of reasons that results that produce weight loss might not be healthy.

After all, we know that starvation is not healthy, yet this will definitely result in weight loss. The same can be said for smoking (nicotine helps with weight loss), over-exercising, and following the most recent “fad” diet. All of these will allow weight to come off of the body, but the end result is a body that is in poor health and is more likely to regain more weight at a later time.

The same can be said for GTE. If you are taking these supplements and seeing weight loss, then there is definitely a possibility that there is one of several things going on.

The first thing that can happen is that you drop too much weight too quickly. Generally, dropping greater than 1-2 pounds a week (there are exceptions) creates metabolic and biochemical changes within the body that make it harder to keep this weight off. In fact, this can result in an increased chance of putting more weight back on later.

It is also possible that your body will become addicted to the GTE, which means that the moment you stop taking the supplement, the process of weight loss begins to revert. This is a common problem that people experience with metabolic enhancers and fat burners. While this has yet to be demonstrated with the GTE supplement, the possibility should not be discounted.

If you want to experience real and healthy weight loss, I will not say that a proper regiment of GTE is necessarily bad, but it needs to be coupled with proper dietary changes and exercise to complete long lasting and safe results.

"It’s not fair for you to say that all green tea supplements are bad"

This could be considered a fair point. There are a number of factors that should be considered when GTE is being consumed. You really need to know where it is coming from, how it is processed, and you need to make sure that the dosage that is recommended is within the prescribed guidelines. If you can’t find out where it comes from, how it is processed, and if the company is unethical enough to want you to over consume so they can make a buck, then it is a bad product (or at the very least a bad company).

While calling all GTE unsafe might appear as unfair, the fact is that the EGCG content and catechin count is what is thought to be responsible for the results that are generated from these supplements. When you take GTE you are eliminating the built in safety mechanisms that come with consuming the green tea naturally, which could be harmful if used improperly. In the end, whether all of these supplements are “bad” or not may depend upon proper use, but there is mounting evidence that actual green tea consumption is still the better option.

The Conclusion…

It is possible that, in the future, science will determine that these supplements are safe. It is also possible that all of the information that has been provided is proven to be incorrect. However, at the present time, it is obvious that even if a particular brand of supplement is safe, drinking green tea is the more natural and healthier way to receive high concentrations of EGCG in your diet.

If you use a proper brand of this product, and do so safely, then you may receive benefits from it. However, the use of real green tea, as has been safely consumed for thousands of years, still seems to be a better option. While otherwise may be proven in years to come, at this point we still recommend to simply drink more green tea and to avoid GTE.