HIV Prevention Research: Green Tea Shows Anti-HIV Activity


HIV/AIDS News Updates

HIV prevention research shows green tea is broad-spectrum

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,

  • destroys viral particles
  • blocks viral attachment to cells
  • prevents viral entry into cells
  • slows reproduction of viruses
  • protects RNA and DNA integrity to reduce mutations
  • can be effective with drug resistant viruses
  • protects against secondary damage from viruses

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.

  • Using flow cytrometry, EGCG is seen bonding directly to CD4, inhibiting gp120 bonding and blocking HIV entry into cells (Kawai, 2003).
  • EGCG binds with CD4 with a stronger chemical affinity than gp120, thus blocking gp120-CD4 binding (Hamza, 2006).
  • Using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, EGCG showed strong binding to CD4 which reduced gp120 binding. Other green tea catechins showed weaker results (Williamson, 2006).

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.

  • EGCG from green tea strongly inhibited replication of two strains of HIV as determined by reverse transcriptase inhibition (Fassina, 2002).
  • EGCG, EGC and ECG (two other green tea catechins), and GTE (green tea extract) are all potent inhibitors of HIV-1 RT (Chang, 1994, Tao, 1992)
  • Both EGCG and ECG strongly inhibit reverse transcriptase (Nakane and Ono, 1989, 1990, Austin 1992)
  • One study found that the weaker green tea catechins did not slow reverse transcriptase, but green tea catechins together with EGCG significantly inhibited reverse transcriptase (Tichopad, 2005).

More potential green tea benefits for HIV prevention and AIDS prevention

  • Green tea has shown stimulated production of healthy lymphocytes up to 300%.

  • Green tea has shown stimulated production of immune system killer cells up to 400%.

  • Green tea protects against many secondary intestinal infections which can lead to “wasting".

  • Green tea may protect against AIDS-related dementia. In the majority of people with HIV AIDS, the central nervous system is infected with HIV. The most severe cases develop into dementia, mediated by the activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines (IFN-gamma) make HIV-1 more toxic to nerve cells and enhance the actions of HIV gp120.

    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).

  • Green tea is active even with drug resistance. Green tea catechins like EGCG protect DNA and RNA, thus reducing the genetic mutations that can lead to drug resistance. Also, research has shown that green tea is an effective antibiotic even with the “drug resistant superbugs” or MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus.

  • Almost all green tea research shows that significant effectiveness begins with an intake of five cups daily and levels off at ten cups daily.

  • Note: one study found that green tea had no apparent anti-HIV activity (Okayasu, 2003).

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 prevention

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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