Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages in the world. Various studies were performed to confirm the notion that green tea prevents a great number of dangerous diseases. This beverage is very good for the skin and hair too, it detoxifies the body, boosts the immune system and even improves mental performance. However, many pregnant women are worried that drinking green tea during pregnancy can harm their unborn baby.
Green tea in pregnancy - folate
Even though it may seem that green tea in pregnancy is beneficial because green tea protects the body in many ways, there is some evidence that pregnant women should cut down on their consumption of green tea.
This is mainly because one of the most important active constituents in green tea, the epigallocatechins, or EGCG, affect the absorption and usage of folate in the body.
Folate is very important in pregnancy. Its deficiency can lead to certain neural tube defects, like spina bifida. Pregnant women are encouraged to increase their intake of folate, through foods or with supplements, but they should also know that green tea affects the way body uses folate.
EGCG molecules are similar to a compound called methotrexate. Methotrecate kills cancer cells by bonding with an enzyme called DHFR, which also participates in the metabolism and transformation of folate.
Because of the similarity between EGCG and methotrexate, EGCG also binds with DHFR enzyme and deactivates it. This directly affects the way in which the body uses folate.
Green tea in pregnancy – caffeine
Another important aspect of drinking green tea in pregnancy is the same that concerns black tea and coffee, and it is the caffeine content in those beverages. Caffeine is generally not recommended in pregnancy. It is believed that caffeine intake affects the unborn baby and causes low birth weight, improper development of some functions and even miscarriage.
Pregnant women are therefore advised to refrain from beverages containing caffeine or to drink decaffeinated tea and coffee instead. However, several studies have found that limiting the intake of caffeine beverages to one or two small cups per day does not affect the unborn baby or the course of pregnancy. This especially goes for green tea, which contains less caffeine than black tea and much less than coffee.
Considering all this, it is safe to say that pregnant women can drink small amounts of green tea, for example a cup or two per day. Still, if they want to be absolutely safe, they should give it up altogether until the baby is born.