Green tea and joint pain

Marion Hauser, MS, RD

In our medical practice we specialize in the non-surgical treatment of degenerative joint disease with a comprehensive program of regenerative medicine injections. We have many patients who have great success with these treatments and would like to do more on a self-help basis. One of the self-help keys to joint repair is controlling body fat, getting activity and exercise, and maintaining good nutrition. In this article we will explore general benefits of green tea on joint pain.

Green tea can help joint pain by addressing body fat and cholesterol issues

Back in 2005, researchers in Japan published what is considered a hallmark study on the health benefits of green tea. In this study, the researchers examined the role of the green tea extract catechins in the reduction of body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL (the bad cholesterol) in men.

Brief explanatory notes:

  • Green tea, Black tea, and Oolong tea come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, or commonly referred to as the “Tea Plant.” The difference in the teas are how the teas are produced from the plant.
  • Catechins are a type of natural phenol. Phenols are a plant derived chemical that protects the plant from disease as a disinfectant and antioxidant.

Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (1) this 2005 study took 35 Japanese men with similar Body Mass Index and waist circumference and divided these individuals into two groups.

  • One group drank a 1 bottle oolong tea a day containing 690 mg of green tea extract catechins.
  • One group drank 1 bottle oolong tea day containing only 22 mg of green tea extract catechins which served as the control group.

After 12 weeks of the daily consumption of the oolong tea a day containing 690 mg catechins, researchers found the test subjects had:

  • Lower Body weight,
  • Lower body mass index
  • Smaller waist circumference
  • Less body fat mass,
  • and subcutaneous fat area was significantly lower
  • Changes in the concentrations of malondialdehyde-modified LDL were positively associated with changes in body fat mass and total fat area in the green tea extract group. (the bad cholesterol level was lowered).

Lower Body weight – Reduced risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Since 2005, many studies proving or disproving green tea’s benefits on obesity, body fat, and cholesterol levels have appeared. The general consensus is summarized in 2016 research from Rutgers University published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.(2)

  • Tea consumption at the levels of 3–4 cups (600–900 mg tea catechins) or more a day has shown to reduce body weight gain, alleviate Metabolic Syndrome and reduce the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

So what about joint pain?

I have written a number of recent articles on the connection between nutrition and joint pain. A common thread is inflammation caused by obesity and body fat independent of weight bearing wear and tear. In other words, researchers are showing that it is not the weight load by itself causing joint pain, but inflammation being produced by our fat cells.

I discuss this at length in my articles in the role of Elevated Cholesterol and Joint Pain, and the connection between Metabolic syndrome and osteoarthritis joint pain and especially in these articles What is obesity-induced osteoarthritis? and Excessive weight and joint pain – the inflammation connection

In a February 2018 study, in the medical journal Clinical Nutrition, doctors suggest that a 4-week course of green tea extract might well be considered as an adjunctive treatment both for control of pain and for the betterment of knee joint physical function in adults with osteoarthritis. (3)

Green tea extract’s impact on joint pain can also be found in its anti-inflammatory effects. Let’s get to the research.

Green tea shuts down chronic inflammation

In August 2017, university and medical researchers in China published their findings on the green tea extract Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) in the publication BioMed Research International. (4)

(In their study, the researchers found that EGCG acted as an anti-inflammatory agent by shutting down chronic inflammation via multiple and diverse chemical pathways. In simplest terms, the green tea extract acted on nitric oxide run amok in a diseased joint environment.

Nitric Oxide is one of our body’s Dr. Jeykll/Mr. Hyde molecules. In a normal joint environment, nitric oxide regulates inflammation as a healing agent. In an abnormal toxic non-healing joint environment, nitric oxide production gets stuck in the  “open,” position creating chronic damaging inflammation. The green tea extra helped close down the runaway nitric oxide production.

EGCG also acted as an anti-oxidant

A common denominator in the pathogenesis of most chronic inflammatory diseases is the involvement of oxidative stress, related to ROS production.

  • Comment: Simply Reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a chemical reaction that leads to oxidant damage. To prevent oxidant damage you take antioxidants.

The research showed that EGCG was able to down-regulate ROS and oxidative damage in its role as an antioxidant. In fact, a February 2018 study in the medical publication Cancer Letters (5) suggests that green tea’s modulation on ROS can inhibit malignant clone expansion (cancer spread) by modulating the intracellular production of ROS.

In 2014, a study published online by the journal Metabolomics (6), researchers suggested that EGCG changed the metabolism of pancreatic cancer cells by suppressing the expression of an enzyme associated with cancer.

Green tea and its extracts exert many different types of beneficial actions in the problem of joint and osteoarthritis pain by changing the chemicals in a damaged joint to point towards healing and shutting down toxic factors. It is the same line of research that cancer researchers are seeing as well.

Green tea is a not a miracle worker if you continue to eat poorly, especially a high saturated fat diet

One of the problems with studies that report that a specific nutrient or food type is effective for a common health problem, is that people believe that nutrient or food is a “super weapon” and that they can go about their business of eating poorly. Green tea is a very beneficial food source for health conscious individuals. It is not a “miracle” substance that will somehow repair years of degenerative damage caused by, among other things, poor lifestyle and eating choices.

A July 2018 study in the medical journal Scientific Reports (6) , found that the anti-obesity effect of green tea differs depending on composition of fats or fatty acids in the diet. They suggested that green tea would have a better weight reducing effect in diets that consists of more healthy fats such as olive oil that contains abundant unsaturated fatty acid, especially oleic acid. Equally, green tea’s benefits would be greatly reduced in a setting of a high fat diet containing high saturated fatty acid.

One of the reasons for this reduction in benefit is in the inability of the green tea to handle the inflammatory response to the bad fats. Similarly then, green tea will have a hard time dealing with the bad inflammation in you joints. Above we talked about research that showed green tea has an anti-inflammatory effect. That positive effect works best in repairing old damage, not the new damage you are creating with a diet rich is toxic fats.


1 Nagao T, Komine Y, Soga S, Meguro S, Hase T, Tanaka Y, Tokimitsu I. Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2005 Jan 1;81(1):122-9.  [Google Scholar]

2 Yang CS, Zhang J, Zhang L, Huang J, Wang Y. Mechanisms of body weight reduction and metabolic syndrome alleviation by tea. Molecular nutrition & food research. 2016 Jan 1;60(1):160-74.  [Google Scholar]

3 Chu C, Deng J, Man Y, Qu Y. Green Tea Extracts Epigallocatechin-3-gallate for Different Treatments. BioMed Research International. 2017;2017.  [Google Scholar]

4 Hashempur MH, Sadrneshin S, Mosavat SH, Ashraf A. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) for patients with knee osteoarthritis: A randomized open-label active-controlled clinical trial. Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Feb 1;37(1):85-90. [Google Scholar]

5 Torello CO, Shiraishi RN, Della Via FI, de Castro TC, Longhini AL, Santos I, Bombeiro AL, Silva CL, de Souza Queiroz ML, Rego EM, Saad ST. Reactive oxygen species production triggers green tea-induced anti-leukaemic effects on acute promyelocytic leukaemia model. Cancer letters. 2018 Feb 1;414:116-26. [Google Scholar]

6 Yamashita S, Hirashima A, Lin IC, Bae J, Nakahara K, Murata M, Yamada S, Kumazoe M, Yoshitomi R, Kadomatsu M, Sato Y. Saturated fatty acid attenuates anti-obesity effect of green tea. Scientific reports. 2018 Jul 3;8(1):10023. [Google Scholar]




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