Green Tea Molecules Interfere With Formation of Plaques That May Cause Alzheimer’s

  • For the second time in less than a month I’ve found myself drawn to reports on the efficacy of green tea extract as a possible prevention or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In February, I wrote about a study conducted in the UK using purified extracts from green tea and red wine in early animal studies to interrupt the pathway that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The result of this study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.


    Now, Science Daily has reported on a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences saying that researchers at the University of Michigan have found a new potential benefit of a molecule in green tea. This molecule, known as ( -- )-epigallocatechin-3-gallate – more easily referred to as EGCG - prevents the misfolding of specific proteins in the brain. The aggregation of these proteins, called metal-associated amyloids, is associated with Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions. 

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    U-M Life Sciences Institute faculty member Mi Hee Lim, along with a team of researchers including chemists, biochemists and biophysicists, used green tea extract to control the generation of metal-associated amyloid-β aggregates associated with Alzheimer's disease in the lab. In their research, they found that EGCG prevented aggregate formation and broke down existing aggregate structures in the proteins that contained the metals copper, iron and zinc. 


    While many researchers are investigating small molecules and metal-associated amyloids, most are looking from a limited perspective. Lim is assistant professor of chemistry and research assistant professor at the Life Sciences Institute, where her lab is located and her research is conducted.  She says, “… we believe you have to have a lot of approaches working together, because the brain is very complex.


    According to Lim, her team's next step is to “tweak” the molecule and then test the molecule’s ability to interfere with plaque formation in fruit flies. "We want to modify them [the molecules] for the brain, specifically to interfere with the plaques associated with Alzheimer's," she said. 


    The previously mentioned study in the UK was conducted by Professor Nigel Hooper of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at Leeds, along with his colleagues. Their focus was to change the shape of the amyloid molecules so that the molecules are no longer able to damage the nerve cells in the brain.


    Both of these studies are using specific molecules from green tea extract. If the studies, through painstaking testing, continue to show promise, the result will likely be the development of new drugs. The idea that the studies are based on something as simple and available as green tea fascinates me. 


    None of these researchers are likely to tell you that drinking green tea alone will prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, since this is National Nutrition Month, and green tea is thought to be a beneficial beverage for many health conditions, why not consider adding  it to our diet? 


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    WebMD tells us that, “…a decade's worth of research about green tea's health benefits -- particularly its potential to fight cancer and heart disease -- has been more than intriguing, as have limited studies about green tea's role in lowering cholesterol, burning fat, preventing diabetes and stroke, and staving off dementia.” 


    My article titled Nutrition One Weapon to Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s, cites sources praising the Mediterranean diet as one way we may cut our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. For most of us, it wouldn’t be difficult to add some green tea to our diet. If by doing so we modulate any of the diseases mentioned in the WebMD article, then we’ve got considerable cause to celebrate. Since I grew up drinking tea, I find this an appealing idea. For those who need to develop a taste for tea, just knowing the potential health benefits should inspired people to try it.


    Note: The fact that Dorian Martin and I were simultaneously writing about studies that mirror the same concept underscores the importance of this information. For another take on this information, see Dorian’s post Go For the Green to Fight Alzheimer’s.


    For more information about Carol visit or


    (2013, March 5) Green Tea Extract Interferes With the Formation of Amyloid Plaques in Alzheimer's Disease. Science Daily. Retrieved from


    Edgar, J. Health Benefits of Green Tea. WebMD. Retrieved from

    Science Daily (2013, February 5) Green Tea and Red Wine Extracts Interrupt Alzheimer's Disease Pathway in Cells, Retrieved from

Published On: March 08, 2013