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Matcha Has No Proven Benefits, But Experts Say It’s Healthy


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Walk into any coffee shop or health food store and you’re almost certain to find this shimmering jade-colored green tea powder. It is mixed in lattes, milkshakessoft drinks, hot chocolates, smoothies and even in desserts like ice cream and Brownies.

It’s recommended by many as an antioxidant-packed superfood that can prevent cancer, improve memory, and reduce stress and anxiety. That’s enough to convince almost anyone to drink matcha. But does he really live up to the wave?

What is matcha?

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Matcha is a type of green tea that has traditional roots in tea ceremonies in Japan and has become popular in the United States and other countries.

It comes from the same plant (camellia sinensis) than other caffeinated teas, and it is cultivated in an unusual way: it is protected from excessive sunlight for much of its growing period so that it can produce more amino acids and biologically active compounds such as chlorophyll and theanine. After the leaves are harvested, they are ground into a fine powder.

Does Matcha Have Health Benefits?

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While other green tea leaves are often steeped whole in hot water, “matcha is much more concentrated in terms of ingredients because it’s made from ground tea leaves,” said Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology and chair of the nutrition department. from the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard.

While the research on its health benefits is not definitive, experts say matcha contains a lot of potentially beneficial substances.

Antioxidants. “As we age or are exposed to things in the environment, like ultraviolet light or carcinogens, we end up with reactive oxygen species and they do harmful things, like damage our cell membranes,” said Jamie Alan, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.

Antioxidants, which are abundant in matcha, are substances that “neutralize” these harmful molecules, Alan said, preventing “a whole cascade of harmful events.”

Tea, therefore, could theoretically help protect the body’s cells from damage and reduce the risk of certain health problems, such as heart disease or cancer, Hu and Alan said, although this has not been proven.

L-theanine. This unique amino acid, which can be found in green tea and certain mushrooms, is another component of matcha that experts highlight as potentially beneficial to health. However, the evidence for how this could happen is weak, Hu said.

Some small placebo-controlled trials have suggested that L-theanine may improve cognitive performance and reduce stress. But there have been only animal studies and a few small human trials, the two experts noted.

Caffeine. While most people might not think about the health effects of caffeine when drinking their morning cup of coffee, the evidence for its health benefits is pretty strong, Hu said.

Studies have found, for example, that caffeine can increase cognitive function and alertness, as well as speed up metabolism. And regular coffee consumption — the main source of caffeine for adults in the U.S. — has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and age-related cognitive decline, according to Hu.

So is matcha healthy?

Few studies have specifically focused on how matcha can benefit health, so it’s hard to say for sure. But scientists have a pretty good understanding of the benefits of green tea. “There is a lot of research on green tea, and the general evidence indicates that it is a healthy drink,” Hu said.

“We don’t have similar evidence for matcha, but since it has the same ingredients as green tea, just in much higher concentrations,” he continued, it’s probably safe to infer that it offers the same benefits.

Alan also emphasized that while matcha is generally safe, certain people — including those who must limit their caffeine intake because of a health issue — should probably avoid it.

“If you’re prone to arrhythmia or if you have heart disease, matcha can be harmful,” she said. People with caffeine sensitivities could also do without matcha because it can cause anxiety and disturb sleep.

In general, said Hu, matcha can be a healthy addition to the diet, as long as you’re mindful of how much sugar and other harmful ingredients you consume along with it.

The amount of sugar and cream that people add to coffee or tea “has become so large that it actually neutralizes the health benefits,” Hu said. And if you eat a lot fast food or smoke cigarettes regularly, don’t expect matcha to counteract these harmful choices.

“If you develop the habit of habitual matcha consumption, in the long run you may get some health benefit,” Hu said. “But if I just sprinkle some matcha powder on top of chocolate ice cream I don’t think it will help much.”

Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves

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I have over 10 years of experience working in the news industry. I have worked for various news websites and have been an author at News Bulletin 247 for the past 2 years. I mostly cover technology news and have a keen interest in keeping up with the latest trends in the industry. I am a highly motivated individual who is always looking to improve my skills and knowledge. I am a team player who is always willing to help out others, but also able to work independently when required. I am proactive and always take initiative to come up with new ideas and solutions.

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