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Health News Archive 589 - HIV
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Green Tea Protects Against HIV

Drinking green tea may help to prevent the spread of the HIV virus, a new study suggests. Scientists working jointly in the US and UK found a healthy compound in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, could protect the body's immune system from the HIV virus. This study was published in the December 2006 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

This study echoes similar findings from Japan a couple of years ago and offers some hope that consumers could one day use green tea, or extracts from it, alongside conventional medicines to combat HIV.

Nearly 40 million people live with HIV worldwide and there were 4.3 million new infections during 2006, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.

The UK-US research team studied the effects of EGCG in laboratory test tubes. They found that EGCG stopped the HIV virus from binding to the body's immune cells.

But, they warned against relying on green tea for protection. UK researcher William Shearer said "It is not a cure, and nor is it a safe way to avoid infection, however, we suggest that it should be used in combination with conventional medicines to improve quality of life for those infected. We tried to use the same concentrations [of EGCG] in experiments as you would get from drinking green tea. We are confident in the results were are seeing, but it is still not the same as putting it into humans."

The team are now looking at how much green tea someone might have to drink for the EGCG to have an effect against HIV infection. Early indications suggested one or two cups per day may be enough to reduce risk by a factor of 10, Williamson said.

Previous studies have already linked green tea to lower risk of a range of diseases, including cancer, and even with increased life expectancy.

Source: Williamson MP, McCormick TG, Nance CL, Shearer WT. Epigallocatechin gallate, the main polyphenol in green tea, binds to the T-cell receptor, CD4: Potential for HIV-1 therapy.  J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006 Dec;118(6):1369-74. Epub 2006 Oct 13.  PMID: 17157668

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