Green tea is so healthy for you that it’s even got some scientists crazed about it.
“It’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink,” says Christopher Ochner, Ph.D. He’s a research scientist in nutrition at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. Green tea’s biggest advantage? “It’s all about the catechin content,” says Beth Reardon, RD, a Boston nutritionist. Catechins are antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage and abnormal cells from forming into cancer.
Cancer is the uncontrolled progression of abnormal cells in the body. It grows when the body’s normal control mechanism stops functioning. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, creating new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor. Some cancers, such as leukemia, do not form tumors.
This terrible disease may arise anywhere in the body. In women, breast cancer is one of the most common. In men, it’s prostate cancer. Lung and colorectal cancer affect both men and women in high numbers.
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7th-grader Stephen Litt is a state oboe player, play tennis, does karate, is a Boy Scout, plays video games — and “somehow manages to find to find a cure for cancer,” his dad said.
The middle schooler’s project for the Georgia Science Fair used an antioxidant in green tea to fight cancer growth in worms. It’s won prizes across the state and gained attention from researchers nationwide.
Stephen, who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia, became interested in cancer-related research after two family friends were diagnosed with breast cancer. He immediately began reading up on this disease and found an article about decreased cancer rates in Japan in relation with the antioxidants in green tea.
Experimenting with green tea
Stephen and his dad ordered the necessary materials online and built a makeshift laboratory in their home. He divided 100 planaria — or worms — into four groups in order to test his hypothesis that a polyphenol in green tea could inhibit tumor formation in the worms exposed to carcinogens.
Over the next four weeks, Stephen exposed one group only to the phytochemical found in green tea, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, or EGCG. A second group was exposed to EGCG for 24 hours and then to two carcinogens for the remainder of the experiment.
Stephen and his father used the carcinogens Cadmium Sulfate and 12-O-Tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate, or TPA. His father — a chemist — mixed the carcinogens himself, so that the middle schooler wouldn’t be in contact with any dangerous chemicals.
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