Green Tea And Tai Chi May Promote Bone Health
Researchers at Texas Tech University have found evidence that drinking moderate amounts of green tea daily, combined with Tai Chi, a moderate aerobic exercise with a mind-body focus, can help to reduce bone loss and inflammation in postmenopausal women.
Green tea is consumed daily in many Asian cultures, and is a mainstay of the average person's diet. Green tea is known to have high levels of antioxidants (polyphenols) that have been shown to have an effect in combating cancer, cardiovascular disease and other disorders. Dr. Leslie Shen of Texas Tech University set out to examine whether green tea, when combined with Tai Chi, a moderate aerobic Asian fitness activity, could help to reduce inflammation and bone loss in postmenopausal women.
171 postmenopausal women were involved in the study; all of them had weak bones, but did not yet have fully-fledged osteoporosis. The women were divided into four groups in the double-blind, placebo-controlled, intervention trial.
The first group received no Tai Chi and a placebo pill, the second group received green tea polyphenol extracts but no Tai Chi, the third group received Tai Chi but was given a placebo pill, and the fourth group was given both Tai Chi and green tea extracts. The groups that received the green tea polyphenol extracts consumed the equivalent of 4-6 cups of green tea daily.
After a period of 6 months, the researchers found that both green tea and Tai Chi helped to increase bone health at the 3- and 6-month markers, as well as improved muscle strength at 6 months. Participants who practiced Tai Chi also experienced improved quality of life and an increase in emotional and mental well-being.
Both green tea and Tai Chi also helped to reduce oxidative stress, the burden placed on our bodies by oxidation and the production of free radicals. Oxidative stress is a precursor of inflammation, an underlying factor of many chronic diseases. The combination of the two may thus be a key factor in helping to treat other conditions.
Tai Chi is a gentle martial art, Chinese in origin, which is commonly practiced by elderly people in Asian societies. It focuses on gentle, slow movements that promote balance, strength, and flexibility, as well as deep breathing and relaxation. Like yoga, it has a mind-body focus, working on promoting the flow of energy throughout the body.
After the encouraging results of this first study, researchers have developed an animal model (middle-aged female rats whose ovaries have been removed) to continue looking into the beneficial properties of green tea and Tai Chi for postmenopausal women, and plan to perform longer-term studies in the future.
Other studies have also shown that gentle strength-training exercises can help to build muscle tone, preventing falls and other injuries as you age. To help maintain muscle and bone health, you may wish to look into Tai Chi classes, or other methods of gentle resistance training such as yoga and Pilates. While you're at it, don't forget to quaff a few cups of antioxidant-rich green tea daily.