February 06, 2009

Green Tea and Chronic Fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a disease that can make you so tired and depressed that you may not be able to get through your normal daily tasks. This constant feeling of exhaustion is long-term (lasting more than 6 months), and any physical or mental activity intensifies the fatigue. Unfortunately, getting lots of rest probably won't improve the symptoms.

Although the cause of CFS is unclear, some studies have shown that it could be partially due to oxidative stress (the excess production of free radicals in the body). Since green tea has powerful free radical-quenching abilities, a team of researchers in India decided to find out whether the tea might also have anti-CFS effects.

In order to do this, they induced fatigue in mice specially bred to develop CFS by forcing them to swim in a water filled glass cylinder for 6 minutes a day for 7 straight days.¹ As expected, the mice developed signs of oxidative stress: their lipid peroxidation levels went up, while their levels of glutathione (the body's most powerful antioxidant) went down.

As the days went by, the mice also began to take on an "immobile posture" earlier and earlier in each swimming session. When mice are forced to swim in a container and can't escape, they quickly adopt a sort of "frozen" posture, moving only as much as they must to keep their heads above water. This immobile posture is believed to be a sign of despair or depression - an indication that the animals have given up hope of escaping.

So what happened when the mice were given green tea extract or green tea catechins? Compared to the mice in the control group, their lipid peroxidation levels were lower, their glutathione levels were restopred, and their increased immobility time was reversed. In other words, green tea protected the mice against oxidative stress and depression/despair, both of which are linked to CFS. The researchers concluded that green tea extract and catechins "could be used as potential agents in the management of CFS..."

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