Is Decaf Green Tea As Healthy As Regular Green Tea?

Both regular and decaf green tea are good for you.
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Green tea is well known to have potential health benefits due to the antioxidants it contains, but it also has caffeine. If you're sensitive to caffeine or want to enjoy a cup of green tea at night without worrying about how it will impact your sleep, you can opt for decaffeinated green tea—and research suggests that you will still enjoy the same health benefits as the regular version.

The Source of Green Tea's Goodness

The health benefits of green tea come from phytochemicals, the natural chemical compounds found in plants. Some of those phytochemicals, called flavanols, give green tea much of its antioxidant potential and have been the focus of research studies. Caffeine is also a phytochemical that offers health benefits, but it doesn't have anything to do with the function of the antioxidants in green tea.

Drinking regular green tea is thought to be good for your health, but it's hard to know just how good it is for you. One study published in 2015 found that green tea drinkers had a lower risk of liver diseases compared to people who don't drink green tea, but much more research is needed to find out if drinking green tea actually reduced that risk or if green tea drinkers tend to have other healthy habits that affected the results.

Other studies suggest green tea extracts may be good for your heart and promote a small amount of weight loss, but those are mostly based on taking green tea supplements rather than drinking the beverage itself.

Antioxidant Comparison

The processes that remove the caffeine from green tea also remove some of the antioxidants, but not all of them. According to one study published in 2003, the flavanol content of regular teas varied from 21.2 to 103.2 milligrams per gram (mg/g), while the flavanol content of the decaf green teas ranged from 4.6 to 39.0 mg/g.

The antioxidant values varied from 728 to 1,686 Trolox equivalents/g tea for regular teas and from 507 to 845 Trolox equivalents/gram for decaffeinated teas. So while there's a reduction in flavanols, the antioxidant activity isn't entirely lost. But beyond that, it's difficult to tell if decaffeinated green tea is more or less beneficial for humans because many green tea studies are done with lab animals rather than people. Still, there are a few studies done with human participants that help us understand if green tea works.

Decaffeinated Green Tea Research

One study published in 2011 tested decaf green tea extracts (equal to about six to eight cups of hot green tea per day) in overweight or obese men. The researchers found that when the participants took the supplements, they had an increase in the levels of epigallocatechin 3-gallate (the best known of the green tea catechins, a type of flavanol) and lost some weight.

Another study, published in 2010, looked at decaf tea and weight loss in women who had survived breast cancer. There was some weight loss during the six months, but not enough to be statistically significant. But the women who took the green tea did have elevations in HDL "good" cholesterol. 

A more recent study on decaf green tea was published in 2014 and used a proprietary green tea extract product in the hopes that it would be beneficial for women who had persistent human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cell changes that could progress to cancer. Unfortunately, the green tea didn't appear to offer any prevention at all.

A Word From Verywell

Decaf green tea still has antioxidant potential and may help a little with weight loss, but whether it does more for your health isn't clear. However, it has no calories and can easily be part of a healthy diet.

It's important to know that decaffeinated green tea may not be completely caffeine free, so if you're sensitive to caffeine, it may still affect you.

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