Green Tea And Pregnancy

By | September 29, 2014

Green tea is currently one of the most popular beverages in the world. Apart from its refreshing benefits it also provides many health benefits. Some of the important nutrients that are found in green tea include alkaloids and antioxidants, caffeine, vitamins like A, D, E, C, B, B5, H and K, manganese, selenium, zinc and chromium.

Green Tea And Pregnancy

All of the above nutrients that are contained in green tea are essential for a healthy pregnancy. However, green tea also contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that inhibits the absorption of folic acid by the body.[1] Green tea contains five times the amount of ECGC that is found in black tea.

It’s important that expectant mothers take adequate amounts of folic because it helps in preventing peripheral neuropathy and anemia in mothers and birth defects in babies, such as spina bifida.

Folic Acid is Essential For Embryonic Neural Tube Development

During embryonic development, the neural tube is what becomes the CNS (central nervous system), which is composed of the spinal cord and brain. Spina bifida is a congenital disorder in which the neural tube isn’t closed completely, resulting in exposure or/and protrusion of the spinal column on the baby’s back. The spina bifida malformations have different degrees of severity. The exact cause of spina bifida isn’t known, but scientific studies have shown that folic acid supplementation lowers the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida by 70%.[2]

How Green Tea May Affect Folic Acid Absorption

The ECGC that if found in green tea inhibits an enzyme that is known as dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR).

Folic acid is essential for normal embryonic development of the embryonic neural tube and for providing protection against neural tube disorders. Folic acid must be made metabolically active before it can be utilized by the body of an expectant mother. For folic acid to become metabolically active, it must first be converted to dihydrofolate and then to tetrahydrofolate through a process that is known as enzymatic reduction, which is catalyzed by the DHFR enzyme.

As explained above the ECGC that is found in green tea inhibits the DHFR enzyme, as a result it prevents folic acid from becoming metabolically active. The end result is that the ECGC in green tea increases the risk of unborn babies developing neural tube birth defects by preventing the bodies of expectant from utilizing folic acid.

The binding of ECGC to DHFR may explains why women, who drink a lot of green tea while trying to get pregnant and early in their pregnancy, may be at a higher risk of giving birth to babies with neural tube disorders such as spina bifida.

Caffeine Content Of Green Tea And Pregnancy

The amount of caffeine in green tea differs widely among the different varieties of green tea. A cup of green tea may contain anywhere around 15mg to 75 mg of caffeine, or even higher in some green tea varieties.[3]

Caffeine Content Of Green Tea And Pregnancy

Medical practitioners recommend that expectant mothers should not take more than 200mg of caffeine daily. A scientific study that was conducted in 2008 showed that expectant mothers who drank 200 mg or more of caffeine daily doubled their risk of miscarriage.

Caffeine is a diuretic (substance that causes the body to excrete more water than usual). Hydration is important during pregnancy. Pregnancy requires an increased amount of minerals and vitamins, and diuretics such as caffeine can facilitate the loss of these essential nutrients through the urine.

Read more about green tea here and its health benefits here.

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