A new study shows that we can indeed have too much of a good thing. A report published this month in BMJ profiled the case of a 16-year-old girl who suffered from hepatitis after drinking too much green tea. Green tea has long been lauded as a healthful drink, but this new evidence serves as a warning that, just like any good thing, we can, in fact, overdo it.
What is hepatitis?
Understanding hepatitis can be confusing as there are several variants of the virus and it is often assumed to be a sexually transmitted disease. This isn’t always the case.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis is a condition in which the liver is inflamed. “Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world, but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs) and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis,” states the WHO Hepatitis Q&A page.
There are five main types of hepatitis virus: A, B, C, D and E. According to the WHO, “types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.” People tend to contract types A and E via contaminated water or food, while types B, C and D typically spread via bodily fluids. Surprisingly, even patients with acute infections may suffer from few or no symptoms.
In the case of the teen at the center of the report published by BMJ, her hepatitis was a rarer instance caused by the consumption of a toxic amount of green tea in an effort to lose weight.
Green tea and liver inflammation
The unidentified teen presented with no autoimmune or metabolic diseases that may have caused hepatitis. She also did not use alcohol and had not taken any prescription or over-the-counter medication that could have caused the inflammation. Doctors concluded that her exceptionally high consumption of green tea caused hepatitis, and she may not be the only one.
A review published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 2012 stated that hepatotoxicity — chemical liver damage — caused by the consumption of herbal or dietary supplements may be far more common than many realize. Because most people don’t have an understanding of hepatitis and its symptoms, many cases each year may go undiagnosed.
The largest contributors to liver inflammation are “Ayurvedic and Chinese herbs, black cohosh, chaparral, germander, greater celandine, green tea, Herbalife, Hydroxycut, kava, pennyroyal, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, skullcap and usnic acid.” As we’ve reported before, we should always use natural products and dietary supplements like green tea wisely. In large quantities, they can be dangerous.
There’s good news for the girl in the study — she rapidly recovered as soon as she stopped drinking the tea. “I had only lost a couple of pounds but then started having horrible pains in my joints, and felt very dizzy and sick,” said the teen. “I was very scared when I was admitted to hospital and had lots of tests; I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time. Now that I look back it was definitely due to the tea; I never took anything else, and it all started happening after drinking the tea.”
Drinking organic green tea can be very beneficial to our health. Studies have shown that its high antioxidant content has protective qualities that prevent disease and slow aging. It may also help weight loss. However, there is no magic tea, pill or cure that will make the pounds melt away. Combining a nutritious diet with regular exercise is the healthiest way to lose weight.
What do you think of this latest news? Will it affect the amount of green tea you drink?
Megan Winkler is an author, historian, Neurosculpting® meditation coach, certified nutritional consultant and DIY diva. When she’s not writing or teaching a class, Megan can be found in the water, on a yoga mat, learning a new instrument or singing karaoke. Her passion for a healthy mind-body-spirit relationship motivates her to explore all the natural world has to offer.