Green tea and Tai Chi Strengthen Bones, New Study Shows

Drinking green tea and practicing Taichi may promote bone health of postmenopausal women and reduce the risk of inflammation, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, focused on postmenopausal women and investigated the potential for green tea to work synergistically with Taichi in enhancing bone strength of postmenopausal women.
Originating as a martial art in China, Taichi is a mind-body exercise that utilizes slow, gentle movements to build strength and flexibility, as well as deep breathing and relaxation, to move qi, or vital energy, throughout the body.

Green tea, historically consumed in the Orient and now an international mainstay, is chock full of compounds called polyphenols known for their potent antioxidant activity. Dozens of epidemiological (observational) studies have shown that people who consume the highest levels of green tea polyphenols (GTP) tend to have lower risks of several chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. These findings have been followed up with animal studies, including some conducted by Shen, suggesting that the mechanism behind this correlation may have to do with lowering chronic levels of inflammation.

The Study
The study findings were published at, the website of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Carried out as a double-blind, placebo-controlled, intervention trial (the "holy grail" of scientific studies), this experiment involved 171 postmenopausal women with the average age of 57 who had weak bones but not full-fledged osteoporosis. Subjects were divided into 4 groups -- placebo: starch pill (placebo) and no Taichi; GTP or green tea polyphenols (500 mg/day) and no Taichi; Placebo plus Taichi (starch pill and practising Taichi three times a week); and GTP plus Taichi.

The study lasted for 6 months, during which blood and urine samples were collected and muscle strength assessed.

The results show that consumption of GTP (at a level equivalent to about four-six cups of steeped green tea daily) and participation in Taichi independently enhanced markers of bone health by three and six months, respectively. A similar effect was found for muscle strength at the 6-month time point. Participants taking Taichi classes also reported significant beneficial effects in quality of life in terms of improving their emotional and mental health

Perhaps most remarkable, however, was the substantial effect that both GTP and Taichi had on biological markers of oxidative stress. Because oxidative stress is a main precursor to inflammation, this finding suggests that green tea and Taichi may help reduce the underlying etiology of not only osteoporosis, but other inflammatory diseases as well.

In the study, the researchers developed an animal model (the ovariectomized, middle-aged female rat), with which they could effectively study the effects of green tea consumption on protection against breakdown of the bone's microarchitecture, according to the AAAS.

In humans, this can lead to osteoporosis, a condition common to older women. The researchers say what they have learned from the animal models might also be applicable to postmenopausal women.

There is a "favorable effect of modest green tea consumption on bone remodeling in this pre-osteoporotic population," said lead researcher Dr. Chwan-Li (Leslie) Shen, an associate professor at the institute.
The researchers plan to soon complete a more long-term study utilizing more technically savvy measures of bone density, according to the AAAS. 

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