Green tea, the beverage linked to an increasing number of health benefits, may also be able to prevent the onset of arthritis, according to a UK researcher.
Dr David Buttle, a reader in Matrix Biology at the University of Sheffield, England, has found that the active green tea compounds EGCG and ECG can block the enzyme that destroys cartilage.
Cartilage destruction is one of the major factors in the progression of osteoarthritis, according to the charity Arthritis Research Campaign which partly funded the research. This degenerative form of arthritis causes stiff, painful joints in more than 2 million people in the UK.
Dr Buttle, based at the university's Division of Genomic Medicine, said: "If you have fairly severe joint damage it may be too late to do anything about it, but if you spend decades of your life drinking green tea in the end it may be beneficial."
He added that the tea should be drunk as a prophylactic, to prevent disease.
Further research is needed to assess the impact of green tea compounds in humans. However recent news that pharmaceutical giant Roche is to manufacture pure EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) reflects the growing importance of evidence showing its benefits.
Sheffield University has already taken out a patent for the use of EGCG in osteoarthritis, and its commercial unit, Sheffield University Ltd, is seeking industrial partners to develop products. Dr Buttle also believes green tea could also have clinical implications for the other major joint disease, rheumatoid arthritis.
EGCG is one of the numerous catechins contained in green tea, which are associated with alleviating conditions such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. Its consumption has also been linked to the prevention of coronary heart disease and is currently the subject of a clinical trial in the US.
Dr Buttle's latest research paper has been submitted to the European Journal of Biochemistry.