Rats that are fed extracts from Chinese green tea every day appear to show signs of slower damage from cigarette smoke.
Researchers led by Judith Mak of the University of Hong Kong discovered that while rats that inhaled cigarette smoke without the green tea extracts showed enlargement in the airspace in the lungs and an increase in the number of mucus-producing goblet cells, those fed with Lung Chen tea did not show the same effects.
"The precise mechanisms of the protective role of green tea against cigarette smoking-induced lung injury are currently unclear," according to a report in Respiratory Medicine. "Lung Chen tea contains the largest amount of EGCG when compared with other Chinese teas and EGCG has the highest antioxidant capacity among different catechins and dietary compounds such as vitamins C, E and black tea."
While no one is suggesting that smoking is made safer by drinking green tea – or by smoking it – there is probably some benefit to be derived from green tea for smokers.
"These results indicate that increased levels of systemic oxidative stress after cigarette smoke exposure play an important role in the induction of lung damage," according to the researchers. "Chinese green tea may have the ability to suppress cigarette smoke-induced oxidative stress that leads to protection of lung injury."