Elaine Becker, RPA: Important Warning: Green Tea Extract is associated with Acute Liver Failure

danger bewareBy Elaine Becker, RPA. I have been a licensed medial practitioner for many years. In light of the controversy recently surrounding herbal supplements, I took the time to write this attached article to alert the community of the potential and very real dangers of green tea extract, which currently is very popular (especially among people who are trying to lose weight). It is literally a matter of Pikuach Nefesh for Klal Yisroel. All the medical information included is sourced in the article. Feel free to consult with any physician for confirmation of the facts contained.

(Editor’s note: Part of the article was omitted upon the recommendation of a local physician.)

Everyone wants to be healthy, lose weight and be energetic. In recent years many dietary supplements have entered the market which have proven to be extremely popular. They are touted as being safe and highly effective. The consumer should be aware that as opposed to prescription medications, which are required by law to have a list of potential side-effects and warnings, these products are not regulated by the FDA, leaving us unaware of any potential harmful interactions, side-effects and dangers. One of the more popular dietary supplements being promoted recently in the Lakewood community is the use of shakes and bars containing large amounts of green tea extracts.

Green tea extract and concentrated infusions of green tea have been implicated in many cases of clinically apparent acute liver injury, including instances of acute liver failure and death.

As Published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology Concerning Green Tea Extracts:

“The use of herbal products has increased significantly in recent years. Because these products are NOT subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are often used without supervision by a healthcare provider, the indication for and consumption of these supplements is quite variable. Moreover, their use is generally regarded as safe and natural by the public. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in the number of reported adverse events occurring with the use of herbal products. . . There is growing concern surrounding the ingestion of green tea extract and serves to heighten healthcare provider awareness of a potential green tea extract hepatotoxicity (acute toxic liver failure). Despite the generally touted benefits of green tea as a whole, clinical concern regarding its use is emerging and has been linked to its concentration in multiple herbal supplements. Interestingly, the suspected harmful compounds are those previously proposed to be advantageous for weight-loss, cancer remedy, and anti-inflammatory purposes. Yet, we emphasize the need to be aware of not just green tea extract, but the importance of monitoring patient use of all dietary supplements and herbal products.” World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Aug 21; 19(31): 5174–5177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746392/

Explaining the Variability in Toxicity and Occurrence:

“. . .A systematic review by the United States Pharmacopeia illustrates evidence for the potential for green tea extract to cause hepatotoxicity (poisonous to the liver). The prevalence of green tea extract induced liver injury is not known, but is probably low in comparison to the wide scale use of these products. Liver injury typically arises within 3 months, with variability of the onset of symptoms ranging from 10 days to 7 months. The majority of cases present with an acute hepatitis-like syndrome (nausea, weakness and jaundice). . .Most patients recover rapidly upon stopping the extract, although fatal instances of acute liver failure have been described. . . Catechin (an antioxidant) component of green tea is the culprit of hepatotoxicity (toxic to the liver). There is great variability in the concentration of green tea extract, among marketed products, which may explain while some products have been implicated in hepatotoxicity and others have not. The association of liver injury with higher doses of green tea (as in extracts) suggests a component of direct toxicity to the liver.” United States National Library of Medicine https://livertox.nih.gov/GreenTea.htm

Supplement manufacturers are prohibited by law from claiming that a supplement can cure or treat a specific disease, but distributors of products containing green tea extracts have been caught making those claims in recent years. They also pay physicians for their endorsements of their products. Keep in mind that no company can ever claim that their products are absolutely safe. If they do, they are lying to you! No prescription or non-prescription medication is absolutely safe for everyone, and neither are all vitamins or supplements.

We must be both smart and safe consumers and do appropriate investigation and research. We cannot rely on word of mouth, the suggestions of well-meaning neighbors and friends, or the salesperson’s effusive promises and recommendations. We must make sure to the best of our abilities that everything we and our families ingest is in keeping with “Ve’neshmartem Me’od Le’nafshoseichem.”


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  1. I am currently on the program you are probably referring to. I don’t sell to others, so this is not a business for me. I understand that geen tea can be problematic, however, I’m looking at the shake and the bar, green tea is not one of its ingredients. I wen on the program because of high cholesterol, obesity… I have since done blood work and all my levels are optimal. Although green tea may be problematic, it does not seem to be an ingredient in the shake or the bar.

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