What Does Green Tea Contain that Induces Cancer Cells to Die?

Q On a recent TV show, there was a segment on the benefits of green tea, and a biochemical that “induced cancer cells to die” was mentioned. I did not hear what this substance was and wondered if you knew if it was present in green tea extracts.

ROBERT, Eden Prairie, MN

A Green tea and its constituents have been found to possess anticancer benefits in many animal studies. Epidemiological data also suggest that green tea possesses chemopreventive properties against cancer. The component to which the TV program was referring is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the main catechin (a type of polyphenol) that green tea contains. In addition to suppressing cell proliferation, EGCG induces apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death, in cancer cells.

Many extracts of green tea are focused on increasing the levels of EGCG, the benefits of which may include fat loss when it’s taken at high levels, and especially when it’s combined with other catechins.1 Adding EGCG extract to selected Pu-erh and green teas may increase their fat-loss and fat-inhibiting properties, helping to combat obesity. Studies indicate that obesity is associated with increased risks for various cancers, including those of the liver, colon, breast, ovary, and prostate.


  1. Hill AM, Coates AM, Buckley JD, Ross R, Thielecke F, Howe PR. Can EGCG reduce abdominal fat in obese subjects? J Am Coll Nutr 2007;26(4): 396S-402S.

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