Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Beware! New Report Links Liver Transplant to Green Tea Extract

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By Steve Blechman


 A recent report in the BBC News on October 25, 2018 stated that Texas native, Jim McCants, may have experienced liver toxicity due to his use of green tea capsules to improve his health. His medical doctors now say he needs a liver transplant. According to the BBC article, “Jim McCants took green tea capsules in a drive to get healthy in middle age. His doctors now say they left him needing an urgent liver transplant,” writes the BBC’s Tristan Quinn.

 The article stated that, “It should have been one of the happiest days of his life. But Jim McCants looks back on his youngest son’s high school graduation with mixed emotions. As he sat down next to his wife Cathleen in the university auditorium, just outside Dallas, Texas, she turned to look at him.

 “She said, ‘Do you feel OK?’” Jim recalls. “I said, ‘Yeah, I feel fine, why?’ ‘Your face is yellow, your eyes are yellow, you look terrible,’” she replied. “When I looked in the mirror, it was shocking.”

 “It was shocking partly because Jim, then 50, had been working on improving his lifestyle and losing weight, focusing on eating more healthily and taking regular exercise.

 “But soon after his son’s graduation, Jim was admitted to the hospital with a suspected liver injury.”

 In its natural form, a cup or two of green tea will not harm you (if used properly). Just ask the Japanese. They’ve been drinking it for centuries. Green tea consists of a potentially toxic catechin at high concentration called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

 I have been aware and have been writing about potential dangers of green tea extract containing concentrated epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) concentrate since 2014. There has been an overwhelming amount of liver toxicity cases due to (EGCG) over the past five years. I have been advocating against it; I would never take concentrated green tea extract rich in EGCG at any level as a dietary supplement. The benefit of green tea extract concentrated in EGCG does not outweigh the potential risk!

 Concentrated green tea extract should not be taken by people who drink alcohol or take acetaminophen (Tylenol). Also, reports have shown that green tea extract rich in EGCG is even more toxic to the liver when taken on an empty stomach. Many people take weight-loss products or energy drinks with green tea extracts on an empty stomach before a workout, which can increase the risk of liver toxicity.

 The research has shown that green tea extract, EGCG, may be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of cancer and certain tumors in animals. The anti-cancer mechanism of action might be because EGCG, like chemotherapy drugs, produces reactive oxygen species (ROS). It is possible that ROS-derived free radicals might be damaging the liver. Drinking brewed green tea seems to be safe as long as it’s not to excess. Green tea supplements, high in EGCG particularly, have become very popular in the last few years, but studies about them are alarming when you consider the results that researchers have concluded.

 So what’s the catch? Whenever we discuss fat-loss supplements, we always have people who tend to take things to the extreme and live by the “more is better” philosophy. There are specific symptoms to watch out for when it comes to liver damage or liver injury. Symptoms of liver injury include:


- Loss of appetite

- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or yellowing in the eyes)

- Brown or dark urine

- Nausea/vomiting

- Excessive fatigue

- Weakness

- Stomach or abdominal pain

- Itching

- Loss of appetite 

 If any of these symptoms appear, please go to your nearest emergency room. Consumers should know that most dietary supplements are safe, but there is the potential for herbal toxicity from some supplements. Just because it’s natural— doesn’t mean that it is safe!



BBC News. 10/25/2018 ‘The food supplement that ruined my liver’

Green Tea Supplements May Cause Liver Damage, Warns EU

Health Canada toughens green tea extract warnings: ‘Cases of liver injury continue to be reported in Canada and worldwide,' safety review says David Common, CBC News, Posted November 15th 2017, 7:31:44 PM. Last Updated: November 15, 2017

Summary Safety Review - Green tea extract-containing natural health products - Assessing the potential risk of liver injury (hepatotoxicity)

Liver Damage From Supplements Is On the Rise; Consumer Reports May 19, 2017

American Journal of Epidemiology 2015; 181, 397-405

BMJ Case Reports 215; doi: 10.1136/ber-2014-208534

Bonkobsky H, et al. Ann Interna Med 2006 Mar 7; 144(5):380

Butler L, et al.; May 12, 2015

Teschke R and Eickhoff A. Herbal hepatotoxicity in traditional and modern medicine: Actual key issues and new encouraging steps. Front Pharmaco 2015 April 23;6, 72 (40pp) doi 10.3389/fphar. 2015.00072

The Journal of Nutrition, published online March 4, 2015.