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Green Tea and Hepatitis C Post Liver Transplant

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. December 12, 2011

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Learn about the new research indicating that green tea could prevent the recurrence of Hepatitis C after a liver transplant.

Sipping a hot beverage is a habitual practice that many of us covet. But when it comes to that drink’s healthfulness – not all are created equally. This is especially poignant when living with the Hepatitis C virus, where hydration coupled with liver support can prevent the illness from worsening. On the other hand, a drink that burdens the liver is fully capable of aggravating Hepatitis C infection. Adding a new dimension to choosing the right beverage for your liver’s health, new research from Germany will put fastidious green tea drinkers with Hepatitis C and a new liver at ease – and is likely to gain many new green tea sipping converts.

End stage liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus is the most common reason for a liver transplant, accounting for about 30 percent of liver transplant surgeries. Unfortunately, recipients of a new liver typically experience rapid re-infection of their new liver from reservoirs of Hepatitis C that remain in the body – outside the liver. In the majority of recipients, this leads to recurrent hepatitis infection and a return of the same sequence of events that originally led to the liver transplant. Thus, strategies to block the Hepatitis C virus from gaining entry into a new, disease-free liver are being actively sought. Fortunately, choosing to drink the right beverage could exert such a desired effect.

About Green Tea

More than a decade’s worth of research has praised green tea’s health benefits, recognizing it to be beneficial for:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Dementia

However, evidence is mounting showing that green tea holds significant value in fighting liver disease as well.

Green tea’s many health benefits are owed to its richness in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). A powerful antioxidant, EGCG kills cells gone awry, without harming healthy tissue. Green tea is preferred for its health benefits to black and oolong teas because it is minimally processed. As such, green tea’s leaves are green, withered and steamed as opposed to the other darker, fermented varieties of tea. Green tea’s minimal processing results in a greater concentration of EGCG.

Many with Hepatitis C have known about EGCG’s ability to impair liver disease progression for years, and have already made green tea their staple beverage. Research revealed at the 2006 Annual Association for the Study of Liver Diseases meeting found that EGCG inhibits oxidative stress and inflammation in liver cells, well known precursors to liver disease progression.

New EGCG Research on Hepatitis C

As published in the December 2011 edition of the journal Hepatology, German researchers investigated the effects of EGCG on Hepatitis C, and the underlying mechanism responsible for those effects. Led by Sandra Ciesek, MD, from the Hannover Medical School in Germany, they found that EGCG was a strong inhibitor of the Hepatitis C virus’s entry into liver cells. More specifically, Ciesek and her team found the following:

  • EGCG had no effect on Hepatitis C RNA replication, assembly or release of viral particles.
  • EGCG was a potent inhibitor of Hepatitis C entry into liver cells, regardless of genotype.
  • EGCG blocked infection of cells by particles outside the liver and between cells.
  • EGCG disrupted the initial step of Hepatitis C cell entry by interfering with the viral attachment to the cell.
  • Pre-treatment of cells with EGCG did not reduce Hepatitis C infection upon inoculation with the virus.

This data led to a greater understanding of green tea’s star constituent and how it could benefit the fight against Hepatitis C.

Based on Ciesek’s study, EGCG does not appear to interfere with replication of the virus or protect against initial Hepatitis C infection. However, their results showed that EGCG impairs the ability of extracellular material containing Hepatitis C to infect liver cells. This specific set of circumstances is especially applicable to those with Hepatitis C who have recently undergone a liver transplant, where the virus is known to make an unwelcome comeback. According to the authors, “The green tea molecule, EGCG, potently inhibits HCV entry and could be part of an antiviral strategy aimed at the prevention of HCV reinfection after liver transplantation.”

Green tea is a beverage worthy of our attention, whether a liver transplant due to Hepatitis C infection applies or not. The range of health benefits characteristic of EGCG span so many desirable areas – from lowering cholesterol to deterring cancer development to inhibiting liver disease progression – that it seems to be the obvious choice for those concerned with health preservation. However, this new research provides motivation for those with a new liver due to advanced Hepatitis C to make green tea their new, preferred beverage.

References:, The green tea polyphenol, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, inhibits hepatitis C virus entry, Sandra Ciesek, et al, Retrieved December 6, 2011, Hepatology, December 2011., Hepatitis C in the Liver Allograft Recipient, AJ Demetris, MD, et al, Retrieved December 11, 2011, UPMC, 2011., Green Tea Polyphenol Inhibits HCV Entry Into Hepatocytes, Retrieved December 6, 2011, HealthDay, 2011., How Green Tea Protects Against Liver Fibrosis, Nicole Cutler, L.Ac., Retrieved December 6, 2011, Natural Wellness, 2011., Health Benefits of Green Tea, Julie Edgar, Retrieved December 11, 2011, WebMD, LLC, 2011.

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