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Green Tea Radiation Research

Updates on Fukushima tea radiation and radioactive fallout

Radiation studies using green tea

Most of the research studies on green tea’s protective effects after damage from radiation have focused on ultraviolet rays from the sun and risk reduction of skin cancer.

However a few preliminary studies have explored possible uses of tea against radiation damage, including high energy sources like gamma rays.

  • Researchers at Beijing Tongren Hospital in China pretreated rats with tea polyphenols or placebo every day for 14 days prior to radiation. All animals were then given a single dose of 15 Gy gamma rays to the head and neck. Submandibular glands were removed on autopsy on the 3rd, 6th, and 30th day after irradiation. Cell damage (lesions) was mild in the tea polyphenol group and cell death (apoptosis) was statistically significantly less compared to the placebo group (Peng Z et al, Tea polyphenols against irradiation-induced injury in submandibular glands’ cells: A preliminary study, Arch Oral Biol, February 2011).

  • Another tea radiation study from China used whole body gamma irradiations first, and then gave mice tea polyphenols including one with 50% EGCG afterwards. The 50% EGCG polyphenol preparation showed the greatest radioprotective effects including protection of the spleen, RBC, WBC, and PLT blood measures, superoxide dismutase (SOD) antioxidant activity, malondialdehde (MDA) level (Guo S et al, Prottective activity of different concentration of tea polyphenols and its major compound EGCG against whole body irradiation-induced injury in mice, Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi, May 2010, p1328-1331).

  • In South Korea, scientists compared pretreatment with whole extracts of green tea and each of its separate catechins including EGCG or epigallocatechin gallate, ECG or epicatechin gallate, EGC or epigallocatechin, and EC or epicatechin to DDC or diethyldithiocarbamate (a chelating agent with anticancer properties). After irradiation with gamma-ray, they examined jejunal crypt survival, endogenous spleen colony formation, and cell death or apoptosis in jejunal crypt cells. While all the green tea radiation preparations showed protection, there was variance in the protection levels of the individual catechins, leading the researchers to suggest that a whole green tea extract may be more effective in radioprotection (Lee HJ et al, Modification of gamma-radiation response in mice by green tea polyphenols, Phytotherapy Research October 2008, p1380-1383).

  • An earlier tea radiation study in Japan found that EGCG given in drinking water to mice significantly prolonged their live span after lethal X-radiation to their whole body (Uchida S et al, Radioprotective effects of (e)epigallocatechin 3-0-gallate (green tea tannin) in mice, Life Sci. 1992, 50, p147,152).

Here is another study on green tea extract benefits for skin toxicity from side effects of radiation therapy.

All of these tea radiation studies are considered preliminary.

High energy radiation includes medical X-rays, medical cancer radiotherapy, and gamma rays such as those emitted from cesium 137, a long-lived particle that may be released during above-ground atomic testing and nuclear reactor accidents like Fukushima, among others.

Kelp, clay and other natural products may reduce radiation

Other natural products that may help reduce cellular damage from radiation include brown kelp. It is currently unknown whether current harvests of brown kelp will accumulate short-lived radioactive iodine particles. Generally, brown kelp has been an excellent source of iodine as it can store iodine at 10,000 times the water concentration.

Other natural products that may be protective include various ginsengs, and clays (in particular bentonite and clinoptilolite, also called zeolite)

A 1999 study found that clinoptilolite modified with hexacyanoferrate dramatically changed the impact of cesium 137 contaminated feed on chickens. Researchers used RADEKONT (a natural clinoptilolite modified by hexacyanoferrate) and showed that "RADEKONT as a supplement during the decontamination period decreased the biological half-life of 137Cs to less than 1 day." (Poschl M et al, Reduction of radiocaesium transfer to broiler chicken meat by a clinoptilolite modified with hexacyanoferrate, Radiat Environ Biophys, July 1999, p117-24) The half life of cesium 137 is generally reported as 30 years.

Another study showed that bentonite clay was twice as effective as clinoptilolite at reducing the transfer of radioactive cesium to milk in dairy cows (Unsworth EF et al, Investigations of the use of clay minerals and prussian blue in reducing the transfer of dietary radiocaesium to milk, Sci Total Environ, September 1989, p339-47). Some post-Chernobyl studies recommended animal radioprotective supplementation through salt licks or bolus administration to reduce the accumulation of radioactive fallout in milk and meat.

Reports on Fukushima power plant repairs as of April 15, 2011 mention adding zeolite clay to the areas in the ocean contaminated by radiation. Using clinoptilolite/zeolite and other clays is still considered a highly effective and inexpensive way to decontaminate some radioactive liquid wastes.

Updates on Fukushima tea and radioactive fallout

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This page last updated by Sharon Jones on November 14, 2012

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