New Research Says This “Healthy” Tea May Actually Cause Liver Damage

Hold onto your teacups! We're about to spill the tea on the lesser-known side effects of green tea and its impact on your liver health.

Green tea is well-known for its health benefits, from preventing cancer, heart disease, and metabolic disorders to offering anti-inflammatory properties. As a result, it’s become the second-most consumed beverage worldwide, with its popularity for weight loss on the rise.

However, the positive effects of green tea might not be the full picture. According to a December 2022 review article in GastroHep, green tea consumption could actually damage your liver health.

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What to know about green tea

As the popularity of green tea continues to soar, Professor Stephen Malnick, lead author and head of the internal medicine department at Kaplan Medical Center, emphasizes the relevance of their recent publication. He points out that the green tea market in the United States could grow to an impressive $27 billion by the end of this decade, showing just how much people love this healthy drink.

However, he reminds us that green tea can sometimes be a mix of materials from different countries, and some might contain tiny amounts of heavy metals, which can be bad for you. So always be sure to choose high-quality green tea from trusted sources.

Although uncommon, it’s also important to note that according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH – a division of the NIH), green tea extracts in pill form have been the main culprit in some individuals reporting liver problems.

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The positive effects of green tea

Brimming with antioxidants known as catechins, your cup of green tea boasts an impressive array of health advantages. These mighty catechins have been linked to cancer prevention, with studies indicating their potential to decrease the risk of breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.

Green tea also enhances heart health by promoting better blood flow, reducing cholesterol levels, and preventing blood clot formation. And if that’s not enough, green tea can rev up your metabolism and aid in fat burning, making it a go-to choice for weight loss or weight maintenance.

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Green tea and liver health

While enjoying the numerous health benefits of green tea, you also need to be aware of potential liver-related side effects presented by the authors. Researchers at Israel’s Clalit Health Service and Kaplan Medical Center examined case reports, studies focusing on specific amounts of tea from the same plants or plant mixes, and cellular and animal experiments to gain a comprehensive understanding of green tea’s effect on liver health.

They found that botanical toxins in the tea plant may cause a metabolic reaction and lead to liver inflammation in some individuals. Green tea can also cause herbal-induced liver injury (HILI), an uncommon but potentially severe issue. With only 100 cases documented worldwide, HILI can result in acute liver failure or damage that takes months or years to reverse.

Diagnosing a direct connection between green tea consumption and liver failure can be challenging. It’s also worth noting that the exact components responsible for liver damage are not yet clear, and combining green tea with other drugs and herbs can lead to severe liver disease in some people. Nonetheless, the authors stress the importance of staying informed about potential risks and consulting a healthcare professional if you experience any suspicious symptoms.

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What to look out for when consuming green tea

Practicing moderation is crucial in green tea consumption, so stick to a reasonable amount, such as 2-3 cups per day, and avoid overconsumption. If you consider incorporating green tea into your daily routine, discuss it with your healthcare provider first. They can help you determine the right amount for your needs and ensure it doesn’t interact with your medications.

Finally, pay attention to your body: if you experience any symptoms, such as abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), or dark urine, after consuming excessive amounts of green tea, stop drinking it immediately and consult your healthcare provider.

Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO
Tricia is a doctor of osteopathy with experience in primary healthcare. She received her medical degree from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and conducts clinical research in Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, as she is motivated by the desire to contribute to the development of innovative treatments and therapies. She is also a certified lifestyle coach for the CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program, empowering individuals to make lasting, healthy lifestyle changes. Dr. Varacallo loves to write— especially about health, wellness, and grief. Drawing from her own experiences of loss and caregiving, she loves to offer support and encouragement to those navigating their own grief journeys. Outside of her professional life, she enjoys traveling and exploring the sunny beaches of Florida with her significant other, always ready for their next adventure.