Matcha, the finely ground green tea powder, is much more than a comforting drink. This unique and colorful powder holds many beneficial nutritional components to improve health. Matcha is rich in a type of phytochemical compound called catechins (1). These phytochemical compounds are known to benefit and help prevent the progression of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. These health benefits may be achieved with 600-900mg catechins per day, the amount in about 3 or 4 cups of green tea (1).
Catechins include an antioxidant called “epigallocatechin gallate” or, EGCG for short. Specifically, matcha has a concentration of EGCG about two to three times higher than that of other green teas—some producers even tout a concentration of 137 times greater (1,2). Antioxidants like EGCG protect cells from DNA damage caused by free radicals, an unstable byproduct of metabolizing oxygen in the body. When free radicals build up in cells, damage may occur. EGCG from powdered matcha protects cells from this damage by collecting and disposing of free radicals (6). This action can help protect against or slow the growth of certain cancers such as skin, esophageal, stomach, colon, pancreatic, lung, bladder, prostate, and breast cancers, as laboratory and animal studies have shown (8). Although positive results have been illustrated in these lab and animal studies, more research needs to be conducted in humans before a conclusive statement can be made about the effect of EGCG and human tumor growth.
A case-control study of urinary bladder cancer in metropolitan Nagoya identified that reduced risk of bladder cancer in females was associated with intake of matcha tea (3). More recently, the Mayo Clinic has presented a series of studies showing the promise for EGCG in reducing the number of leukemia cells in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (4). Other research has suggested that matcha may help boost the immune system and aid in improving blood glucose and cholesterol levels. A group of researchers found that the water-soluble, aqueous extract, of matcha is the component that has a role in the suppression of diet-induced high levels of lipids and blood glucose (5,7). Thus, matcha may be especially beneficial for populations who consume a high-fat diet.
Besides these potential health benefits, drinking matcha can increase mental alertness due to the amino acid, L-Theanine. Although matcha contains less grams of caffeine than an espresso, matcha’s caffeine is processed in the body for a longer period of time; this allows for a nice buzz without the caffeinated crash. To reap the most health benefits from this tea, enjoy a freshly brewed cup.