Although merely drinking green tea won't provide enough of this ingredient to get this particular anti-HIV health benefit, laboratory tests show that high concentrations of it can prevent the binding of HIV to human immune cells in the laboratory, which is the first step in HIV infection.
The findings, published in the November issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, suggest that a class of chemicals called catechins found in green tea, particularly the chemical EGCG, is protective against HIV infection. Catechins are widely believed to be responsible for green tea's anticancer and heart-health benefits.
Green Tea Fights HIV Infection
In the study, Japanese researchers demonstrated in the lab that EGCG blocked the binding of the HIV virus to human immune cells known as T cells. Specifically, the green tea ingredient attached itself to HIV's usual target on the T cell, and therefore protected the cell from infection with the virus.
In an editorial that accompanies the study, researcher William T. Shearer, MD, PhD, of the Baylor College of Medicine, and colleagues say they are also looking at using advanced computer programs to better define the nature and the power of EGCG's protective effects in HIV infection.
If further studies confirm these results, researchers say the green tea ingredient may serve as a model for new HIV drug therapies to prevent the progression of the disease.