Almost 20 years of AIDS/HIV prevention research have shown that green tea antioxidant catechins (a group of green tea polyphenols), especially EGCG, the strongest antioxidant catechin, have anti-HIV activity “in each step of the HIV life cycle” (Yamaguchi, 2002).
These studies have not progressed beyond cell and animal studies, and are considered preliminary.
Results of green tea HIV prevention research show that green tea catechins, particularly EGCG,
Green tea blocks HIV entry into cells
Current HIV prevention research is focusing on preventing the entry of HIV into cells.
HIV will enter T4 cells (anti-viral lymphocytes, or white blood cells from your immune system) at a site called the CD4 molecule on the T4 cell wall.
The HIV virus uses its envelope glycoprotein called gp120 to attach to the CD4 site.
When attachment is successful, the virus can enter the cell, taking over the genetic material, replicating, using up all the cell’s resources, killing the cell, then exiting and repeating the process until the infected individual dies.
Several studies show that EGCG, the primary green tea catechin bonds more strongly to CD4 than the HIV virus gp120, thus blocking gp120 and preventing HIV from entering the T4 cell.
Green tea slows reverse transcriptase (HIV-1 RT)
HIV needs a viral enzyme called reverse transcriptase to make a DNA copy before it can reproduce.
Inhibiting reverse transcriptase reduces the capacity of HIV to reproduce.
More potential green tea benefits for HIV prevention and AIDS prevention
EGCG from green tea reduces nerve damage from this pathway as shown in studies on brain ischemia (stroke), and new studies show that EGCG inhibits the JAK/STAT1 pathway of cytokine IFN-gamma neurotoxicity (Giunta, 2006).
Can black tea help?
One study found that both green and black tea are active against HIV through multiple mechanisms.
Theaflavins, the primary antioxidant polyphenols from black tea, are more potent than green tea catechins as HIV-1 entry inhibitors targeting gp41 (Liu, 2005).
AIDS is prevented by preventing infection from the HIV virus.
Unfortunately, with both blood and sexual transmission, prevention has proven to be a monumental task.
Over 40 million people are infected with HIV and over 25 million have died since the epidemic began.
After 20 years, green tea HIV prevention research is still considered preliminary.
But if green tea catechins ever prove to be an important part of preventing HIV infections, one consideration is supply.
Currently, enough tea is grown and transported to allow 2/3 of the world’s population to drink tea daily.
While most of the tea is processed into black tea, it is actually easier to process tea leaves into green tea.
The cost of drinking ten cups of green tea every day or taking green tea extract supplements in the United States averages about $15 a month.
Everyone who is HIV positive should be under the care of a licensed health care provider and can consult with their provider to determine if green tea can be a part of their HIV prevention and control program.
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This page last updated by Sharon Jones.
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