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updated: 11/21/2010 6:39 PM

Green tea supports weight loss

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Q. Can green tea really help people lose weight?

A. Some studies suggest that two to four cups of green tea daily could provide some extra help when you cut calorie consumption and boost your activity to lose weight, but don't expect it to produce a major loss.

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Natural compounds in green tea, especially a polyphenol known as EGCG, may support weight loss. Studies that do show an effect of green tea or isolated EGCG show an average of about an extra one to three pounds of weight loss over several months, especially among those who are moderately obese.

Some vitamin supplements or products that claim to promote weight loss list EGCG or green tea extract content but may contain an amount well below levels linked with weight loss in controlled studies.

If you enjoy green tea, drinking two or three eight-ounce mugs or three to four six-ounce cups freshly brewed (not bottled) each day provides levels of EGCG associated with these modest improvements in weight loss.

Extracts or isolated EGCG in appropriate amounts may help, too, but when you get these compounds from drinking tea you may end up with additional help toward your weight loss goal. You'll also reduce your total calorie consumption if you drink green tea plain (or with just a teaspoon of sugar or honey) instead of a sweetened beverage or cappuccino, instead of mindlessly munching through snacks when you aren't even hungry, or instead of finishing off a meal with dessert. These changes can add up to important drops in calorie consumption for significant weight loss.

Q. Is there something special in dry beans that lowers cancer risk, or is the goal really to just eat more fiber?

A. Dry beans -- such as kidney, black, pinto and navy beans -- and dry peas and lentils are more than just sources of dietary fiber. Beans are concentrated in fiber, and foods high in fiber do probably lower cancer risk, at least in the colon. But don't ignore beans and assume a fiber supplement is "easier.["]

Dry beans, peas and lentils also provide resistant starch, which is converted in our gut to compounds that seem to offer direct cancer protection to colon cells. Dry beans are also top sources of folate, important to produce and maintain healthy DNA, lignans, and a variety of antioxidant phytochemicals.

Growing research suggests that regular consumption of dry beans may help protect against breast, colon and prostate cancers, and potentially others. In one large study, for example, although total consumption of a group of antioxidant compounds called flavonols was not linked with risk of breast cancer, women who consumed dry beans and lentils at least twice a week had nearly 25 percent lower risk of breast cancer over an eight-year period than those eating them less than once a month.

An animal study suggested that bean consumption could act through several different pathways to increase self-destruction of breast cancer cells and decrease tumor formation.

To add beans to your diet, consider setting a goal to eat beans, peas or lentils for a "meatless Monday["] dinner. You can find recipes in the AICR Test Kitchen and the New American Plate Beand and Whole Grains brochure. Both are available online at aicr.org.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research. More about the group and its New American Plate program at aicr.org.

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