Green tea is probably the healthiest drink on the planet. One new discovery found that it’s even better for you than previously thought. A compound in green tea fights oral cancer. This is according to researchers out of Penn State’s Center for Plant and Mushroom Foods for Health. Joshua Lambert is an associate professor of food science and co-director of the center. He said this study may even lead to better treatments for oral and even other types of cancer. Not only does the element of green tea target cancer cells, it leaves healthy cells untouched. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is the cancer-killing compound in green tea that has these food researchers excited. Yet, they still don’t know exactly how it targets cancer cells while letting others go free. They surmise that it has something to do with triggering mitochondrial processes which in turn lead to a cancer cell’s death.
Lambert said the EGCG attacks the mitochondria—the engine of a cell. That damage sends shockwaves throughout the cell leading to its death. This in turn lowers the expression of anti-oxidant genes, making the efforts of the EGCG even stronger and cancer, weaker. Not only did EGCG not cause this same experience in healthy cells, researchers found that it protected them. For this study, researchers placed oral cancer cells side-by-side with healthy human ones in petri dishes. Then they placed the compound inside each one to compare how EGCG interacted with the cells. Researchers believe that EGCG turns off a protein called sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) in cancer cells and turns it on in healthy ones. This discovery could help heal many. More than 8,000 Americans succumb to oral cancer each year. Scientists hope that someday they can derive a cancer-fighting drug that targets cancer cells while leaving healthy ones alone. This drug would have far less side effects than chemotherapy, and would be more effective.