Green Tea & Folate

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Green Tea & Folate

By Yolandi Rademeyer R.D

Green tea has many beneficial health properties and, in healthy individuals, does not need to be eliminated from the diet when trying to conceive or during pregnancy,but limiting consumption to one cup a day and not drinking the tea close to the time of taking folic acid supplements or with a folate rich meal may be beneficial for maintaining optimal folate levels.

Green and black tea both reduce the bio-availability of folic acid in the gut by roughly a third , but green tea more so due to it being an unfermented tea with higher amounts of catechins.[1][2][3]

Green tea has long been known for its antitumor properties partly because of it’s anti-folate effect[4]. Apart from its antioxidant properties, it also contains a catechin named Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGG).

Studies have proven EGG to be an efficient inhibitor of the enzyme that converts folate to a more active form in the body as well as playing a role in folate absorption from the gut[4][5].

Folate is a crucial nutrient around the time of conception and the prevention of neural tube defect (NTD) in newborns [6][7][8]

Studies in pregnant women have shown that higher levels of tea consumption were associated with lower folate levels in the body especially with more than 4 cups a day of green tea[13]or Oolong tea[14]

Three studies have found that the risk of NTD is increases with tea drinkers(usually >3 cups/day) compared to non tea drinkers. These studies were from Great Britain, US and China[9][10][11]

Taking into consideration that some of these studies were done in years before folic acid food fortification commenced(1998) and mothers were on average doses of folic acid (400mcg)supplementation. We now have folic acid food fortification in grains and cereals and higher recommendations of perinatal folic acid supplementation(>600mcg).

As mentioned, green tea has many beneficial health properties and, in healthy individuals, does not need to be eliminated, but limiting consumption to one cup a day and not drinking the tea close to the time of taking folic acid supplements may be beneficial for maintaining optimal folate levels.

However, some reasons you may want to minimise the consumption of green and black tea even more:

  • If you are aware that you have low folate levels(one in 3 people have and MTHFR mutation: see folic acid vs methyl folate post)
  • If you are anaemic[12]
  • If you are only taking 400mcg of folic acid as a prenatal supplement
  • if you are gluten free and do not consume other folic acid fortified cereals(brown rice, quinuoa,wild rice,buckwheat,amaranth,millet)(AND2014)
(1)Influence of green and black tea on folic acid pharmacokinetics in healthy volunteers: potential risk of diminished folic acid bioavailability.N. Ceren Alemdaroglu  Ulrich Dietz Siegfried Wolffram
Biopharmaceutics & Drug Disposition Volume 29, Issue 6
Original Paper
(2)Inhibition of folic acid uptake by catechins and tea extracts in Caco-2 cells
N Ceren Alemdaroglu, Siegfried Wolffram, Jean-Paul Boissel, Ellen Closs, Hildegard Spahn-Langguth, Peter Langguth
Planta medica 73 (1), 27, 2007
(3)Wang H, Provan GJ, Helliwell K, et al. Tea flavonoids: their functions, utilisation and analysis. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2000;11:152–160.
(4)Effects of folate cycle disruption by the green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3-gallate. EnmaNavarro-PeránaJosé NeptunoRodríguez-Lópeza
The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology
Volume 39, Issue 12, 2007, Pages 2215-2225
(5)Alemdaroglu NC, Wolffram S, Boissel J, et al. Inhibition of folic acid uptake by catechins and tea extracts in Caco-2 cells. Planta Med. 2007;73:27. [PubMed]
(6)Matsuzaki M, Haruna M, Ota E, et al. Dietary folate intake, use of folate supplements, lifestyle factors, and serum folate levels among pregnant women in Tokyo, Japan. J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2008;34:971–979. [PubMed]
(6)MRC Vitamin Study Research Group. Prevention of neural tube defects: Results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study. Lancet. 1991;338:131–137. [PubMed]
(7)Czeizel AE, Dudas I. Prevention of the first occurrence of neuraltubedefects by periconceptional vitamin supplementation. N Engl J Med. 1992;327:1832–1835. [PubMed]
(8)Berry RJ, Li Z, Erickson JD, et al. Prevention of neural-tube defects with folic acid in China. N Engl J Med. 1999;341:1485–1490. [PubMed]
(9)Fedrick J. Anencephalus and maternal tea drinking: evidence for a possible association. Proc R Soc Med. 1974;67:356. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
(10)Correa A, Stolley A, Liu Y, et al. Prenatal tea consumption and risks of anencephaly and spina bifida. Ann Epidemiol. 2000;10:476–477. [PubMed]
(11)e R, Ren A, Zhang L, et al. Tea drinking as a risk factor for neural tube defects in Northern China. Epidemiology. 2011;22:491. [PubMed]
(12)Iron deficiency anemia due to excessive green tea drinking
Frank S. Fan
(13)Maternal Tea Consumption during Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Spina Bifida
Mahsa M. Yazdy, Sarah C. Tinker, […], and Martha M. Werler
(14)Shiraishi M, Haruna M, Matsuzaki M, Ota E, Murayama R, Murashima S. Association between the serum folate levels and tea consumption during pregnancy. Biosci Trends. 2010;4:225–230. [PubMed]

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