Tea time: A good habit for lower blood sugar

Can’t resist starchy foods and desserts this holiday season? Research at Penn State demonstrates a tasty way to keep rising blood sugar from harming your body.

The answer these scientists came up with: Drink green tea with a starchy food.

Lab experiments show that a powerful green tea antioxidant, epigallocatechin-3-gallate, (EGCG) limits blood sugar spikes when you consume carbohydrates.

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“The spike in blood glucose level is about 50 percent lower than the increase in the blood glucose level of (lab animals) that were not fed EGCG,” says researcher Joshua Lambert. “If what you are eating with your tea has starch in it then you might see that beneficial effect. So, for example, if you have green tea with your bagel for breakfast, it may reduce the spike in blood glucose levels that you would normally get from that food.”

An enzyme called alpha-amylase made in the mouth and by the pancreas helps break down starch into maltose and glucose. EGCG may inhibit the enzymes ability to break down the starch, the researchers believe, since they also found that EGCG reduced the activity of alpha amylase in the pancreas by 34 percent.

But leave the sugar out of your green tea: “That may mean that if you add sugar into your green tea, that might negate the effect that the green tea will have on limiting the rise in blood glucose level,” Lambert warns.

Lambert added that the green tea and the starch would need to be consumed at the same time. For example, drinking a cup of tea well after eating a piece of toast would probably not change the blood sugar spike.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.