I was inspired to write this short blog by a recent trip to China to compete in Shanghai 70.3. With worsening post-race hip flexor tendonitis (irritation and inflammation of the tendon) my Allsports Physio made, what I assumed at the time, a flippant comment, about drinking more green tea to help the tendon healing. Being in one of the lands of green tea it was easy to find a hot cup at almost every restaurant and cafe. China Eastern airline also served green tea as standard accompaniment with onboard meals. Well aware of the beneficial effects of green tea on cancer, diabetes, heart, other inflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases, but less knowledgeable about the link to tendons, I went in search of evidence of assistance in musculotendinous injuries.1
Pickings at this stage seem to be fairly slim, but somewhat promising. Evidence comes from two main studies on animals (poor Wistar rats) showing improved healing of the achilles tendon from tendonitis with the use of 700mg/kg/day of green tea catechins (chemical compounds found in the leaves), in conjunction with glycine (an amino acid). 2,3 Practicality of this dosage becomes out of the question when one realises that 700mg of green tea catechins is equal to about 20 cups of green tea per day, or rougly 1000 cups of green tea per day for my body weight! I did get through a fair amount whilst travelling in China but I don’t think I would have even broken into double figures. Most green tea supplements sit at around the 200mg mark for catechins, so bottles and bottles would be required to produce the same effect. I’m actually wondering how the study rats got away without having serious liver damage?! “We fixed your tendon but we’ve put you into liver failure” …hmmmm.
It is worth noting that some of the other benefits of green tea catechins come at much more modest doses of around 200-500mg/ d, or three to four cups of green tea in a day. A major scientific review conducted in 2014 of the links between diet and chronic diseases also found tea to be the most protective of any beverages we consume.4
There is no doubt that it is worth including a green tea as part of your dietary routine, but at this stage there is a lot more evidence needed before it becomes part of a prescription for tendon healing.
1. Suzuki, T. et al. Health Benefits of Tea Consumption. In Beverage Impacts on Health and Nutrition, 2nd ed.; Wilson, T. Templ, N.J. Eds.; Springer International Publishing: Cham, Switzerland, 2016; pp. 49–67.
2. Vieira, CP et al. Green tea and glycine aid in the recovery of tendinitis of the Achilles tendon of rats. Connect Tissue Res. 2015 Feb;56(1):50-8. doi: 10.3109/03008207.2014.983270. Epub 2014 Nov 21.
3. Vieira, CP et al. Green Tea and Glycine Modulate the Activity of Metalloproteinases and Collagen in the Tendinitis of the Myotendinous Junction of the Achilles Tendon. Anatomical Record. First published: 28 April 2016 https://doi.org/10.1002/ar.23361
4. Fardet and Boirie. Associations between food and beverage groups and major diet-related chronic diseases: an exhaustive review of pooled/meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Nutrition Reviews: 2014 V72,12: 741–762