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Health News 45 - Cartilage and Joints
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Green Tea Extracts Protect Cartilage

A study conducted at the University of Sheffield Medical School, in Sheffield, England, and reported in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, investigated the effect of green tea catechins on human and bovine (cow) cartilage cultures. Although these polyphenols from green tea have been previously demonstrated to alleviate inflammation in mice, it had been unknown whether they protected the joints.

Green tea catechins were added to bovine nasal and joint cartilage cultures as well as three cultures of human cartilage. The human cartilage had been removed during joint replacement or other surgery which provided osteoarthritic, rheumatoid and macroscopically normal human cartilage. The researchers sought to determine the amount of proteoglycan degradation as well as type II collagen breakdown, induced by exposure of the cultures to several proinflammatory substances.

The green tea catechin epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) prevented tumor necrosis factor-stimulated proteoglycan degradation in the bovine nasal cartilage culture, while the catechins epicatechin gallate (ECG) and epicatechin (EC) inhibited interleukin 1-alpha stimulated degradation. In the bovine joint cartilage culture, EGCG prevented proteoglycan breakdown when challenged with several inflammatory substances, as did ECG. In human cartilage, ECG significantly inhibited proteoglycan breakdown in osteoarthritic, rheumatoid and nonaffected cartilage treated with interleukin 1-beta and tumor necrosis factor. EGCG, EC and epigallocatechin (EGC) reduced the degradation of type II collagen in bovine nasal cartilage when treated with interleukin 1-alpha.

The catechins' benefits may be due to both their antiinflammatory properties as well as an antiproteolytic effect which protects the cartilage. It remains to be demonstrated whether oral administration of green tea catechins can elevate levels in the joints sufficiently to prevent cartilage breakdown.

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