How to detoxify the body from heavy metals and counteract their damage? With a cup of green tea… In fact, this is what emerges from a very recent review, which appeared in the Journal of toxicology and environmental health, Part B, thanks to the work of a Mexican team (Garcia Rodriguez et al, J Toxicol Environ Health B CritRev, 2023).
Heavy metals are among us
Heavy metal pollution is a major health concern. We can come into contact with heavy metals through what we breathe, eat and drink. Indeed, heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, do not degrade and persist in the environment for a long time. Cigarette smoke, for example, can cause exposure to cadmium, some medicinal herbs that come from uncontrolled crops can contain lead, as can coffee, while fish can be contaminated with arsenic and mercury, rice with cadmium as well as shellfish. Heavy metals, even if contained in small quantities, accumulate in the tissues and can thus be harmful. In particular, heavy metals are toxic to the body, since they increase the production of free radicals and thus the risk of DNA damage, they tend to bind to the active sites of enzymes, cells and proteins, altering their functionality, and they take the place of some elements necessary for metabolism, such as calcium in the bones and iron in the red blood cells, causing alterations and damage to the tissue structure. So how can we defend ourselves against heavy metals? Of course, a first way is to ensure that we serve quality food that is always well controlled. But, as we have seen, this may not be enough, especially if we live in highly polluted areas. Here comes a helping hand from a well-known drink, green tea.
Green tea against heavy metals
Green tea is a concentrate of polyphenols with an antioxidant action. Among the polyphenols that appear most abundantly in green tea we undoubtedly indicate epigallocatechin 3 gallate, but there are also other very important substances with a powerful anti-free radical action, such as quercetin. Well, it is precisely these substances that make green tea a powerful ally when it comes to protecting the body from heavy metals. Green tea, in fact, acts in different ways. First, green tea reduces the damage caused by exposure to heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, cobalt and lead with a direct action aimed at counteracting the free radicals generated by these substances.
Then, green tea polyphenols help repair DNA damage caused by free radicals and stimulate apoptosis, which is the programmed death of damaged cells and their subsequent elimination from the body. But that's not all. In fact, as another recent study published in the journal Biometals (Anna Winiarska-Mieczan, Biometals, 2018) also states, green tea has a chelating action, namely capable of capturing heavy metals and thus reducing their absorption by tissues.
Here are other studies that indicate how beneficial green tea is for our health. This drink has been shown to counteract aging processes, inflammation, cellular degeneration and blood sugar rises and, from today, we know that it can also stimulate heavy metal detoxification processes and protect the body from any damage caused by an accumulation of these toxic substances. Other nutrients that have been shown to reduce the damage of heavy metals are vitamin E, contained in almonds, avocados, extra virgin olive oil and sunflower seeds, vitamin C, contained in citrus fruits, berries, kiwis and in green leafy vegetables, rutin, contained in apricots, cherries, grapes, grapefruit, plums, oranges and buckwheat, and curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric.
As for drinks, white tea has also been shown to reduce the absorption of heavy metals into tissues thanks to its high antioxidant content.