Green Tea and Pregnancy; Two sides to the story…

green-tea-and-pregnancyWhen discussing green tea and pregnancy a lot of mixed opinions exist.

Although some experts have outlined benefits of drinking green tea when expecting a baby, most researchers
advise to limit the amount of green tea consumption during pregnancy.

In this section I will provide the pros and cons of taking green tea during a pregnancy so you (a pregnant woman) or you (a worried soon-to-be-
dad
) or you (neither of the two but you want to be prepared)….can choose whether or not to consume green tea (or allow your – pregnant – wife to consume it).

We’ll start with the positive side effects of green tea when pregnant. Just to prevent you from getting all depressed straight away…..

if at all of course….

but I’m not answering that question just yet so you read the whole page, making a well-thought out decision possible.

green-tea-and-pregnancy

The benefits – green tea and pregnancy

  • Women sometimes suffer from gum diseases during pregnancy. Green tea prevents inflammation and keeps your teeth healthy. Read more on oral hygiene: does green tea stain teeth.
  • Regulating cholesterol and preventing high blood pressure, consuming green tea during pregnancy can be useful for pregnant women as they have an increased risk of developing cholesterol and blood pressure problems.
  • Rich of antioxidants, green tea strengthens the immune system so women are less susceptible to a cold or another infection.
  • Certain hormones released during pregnancy make the body resistant to insulin, thereby increasing blood sugar levels (this is called gestational diabetes). Also, it puts the baby at risk of type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Green tea has been found effective in controlling the blood sugar level.
  • Researchers of the Oregon State University showed that, in regards to the lung, maternal consumption (during pregnancy and nursing) of green tea, decaffeinated green tea and green tea ingredients (EGCG and caffeine) provided significant cancer chemo protectionto the offspring where EGCG was the most effective. This protection would last to at least middle age.Read about green tea and cancer.
  • Often suffering from stomach distension, leading to constipation (sorry, people), pregnant women could benefit from green tea as it is said to prevent constipation.Read more about green tea and constipation: green tea constipation.

There goes the optimistic mood because we’ve now arrived at the risks involving green tea and pregnancy.

green-tea-and-pregnancy

The risks – green tea and pregnancy

Yes, there are some risks concerning green tea and pregnancy. But I can tell you right now already that drinking one or two cups of green tea a day is very unlikely to cause harm to the baby. Only when consumed in large amounts, green tea may have harmful effects on the fetus.

Why? I’ll explain it right now.

Micronutrients, particularly folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 or folacin) and folate (the naturally occurring form), are very important during periods of rapid cell division and growth but we also need it to produce healthy red blood cells. A lack of folic acid may lead to anemia (a red blood cell deficit) but also to glossitis (inflammation or infection of the tongue), diarrhea, depression and confusion.

During a pregnancy folic acid becomes even more important because it decreases the chance of fetal neural tube defects in the first month. These are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, such as:

  • spina bifida: paralysis of the nerves below the affected area of the spine (folic acid decreases the risk by 60-70% with a non-optimal folic acid intake when taken around conception, in the first month).
  • anencephaly: babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth.

The problem of green tea during pregnancy is that the most important green tea antioxidants epigallocatechins, or EGCG for short, inactivate folic acid.

Although not tested on humans, one of the first studies to reveal how EGCG stops cancer cells from growing suggests this antioxidant binds to the enzyme DHFR, an enzyme involved in the folate intake. When binding to it, the green tea antioxidant inactivates this enzyme, thereby negatively influencing the body’s ability to use folic acid.

A second study performed by researchers from the University of Bologna, Italy found that excessive EGCG concentrations could negatively influence the safe conception (fertilization) and growth of a child (maturation) as EGCG depletes folid acid. This study was performed in a closed environment (in a lab) and tested on pigs only though.

Green tea contains small amounts of caffeine. Doctors recommend pregnant women to limit caffeine consumption during pregnancy. Go to caffeine content green tea to find out why.

Although it might seem now as if green tea and pregnancy are only negatively related, I do want to point out that several studies on green tea and pregnancy have stressed that only large amounts of green tea during pregnancy may be harmful for the baby.

How much green tea a mother can drink exactly or how much the folic acid intake is affected, remains unclear.


Read why pregnant women could better LIMIT CAFFEINE intake.

Go to green tea and FERTILITY.

Go from green tea and pregnancy to green tea and HEALTH.

HOME page.

Sources

Castro D.J., Yu Z., Löhr C.V., Pereira C.B., Giovanini, J.N., Fischer K.A., Orner G.A., Dashwood R.H., Williams, D.E. 2008. Chemoprevention of dibenzo[a,l]pyrene transplacental carcinogenesis in mice born to mothers administered green tea: primary role of caffeine. Carcinogenesis: 29(8):1581–1586.

Bech, B.H., Nohr E.A., Vaeth M., Brink Henriksen T., Olsen J. 2005. Coffee and Fetal Death: A Cohort Study with Prospective Data. American Journal of Epidemiology: 162:983–990.

Kao T.T., Wang K.C., Chang W.N, Lin C.Y., Chen B.H., Wu H.L., Shi G.Y., Tsai J.N. Fu T.F. 2008. Characterization and Comparative Studies of Zebrafish and Human Recombinant Dihydrofolate Reductases—Inhibition by Folic Acid and Polyphenols. Drug Metabolism and Disposition: 36:508–516.

Kristof, N.D. 2010. World’s Healthiest Food.New York Times.

Navarro-Martínez M.D., García-Cánovas F., Rodríguez-López J.N. 2006. Tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate inhibits ergosterol synthesis by disturbing folic acid metabolism in Candida albicans. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy: 57, 1083–1092.

Navarro-Perán E., Cabezas-Herrera J., García-Cánovas .F, Durrant M.C., Thorneley R.N., Rodríguez-López J.N. 2005. The antifolate activity of tea catechins. Cancer Research: 65(6):2059-64.

Spinaci, M., Volpe, S., De Ambrogi, M., Tamanini, C., Galeati, G., 2008. Effects of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) on in vitro maturation and fertilization of porcine oocytes. Theriogenology 69(7):877-885.

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