Consuming green tea or its active ingredient, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), has been shown consistently to benefit the healthy functioning of several body systems. In the immune system specifically, accumulating evidence has revealed an immunomodulating effect of green tea/EGCG. Several types of immune cells in both the innate and adaptive immune systems are known to be affected in varying degrees by green tea/EGCG. Among them, the dramatic effect on T cell functions has been repeatedly demonstrated, including T cell activation, proliferation, differentiation, and production of cytokines. In particular, dysregulated T cell function with respect to different subsets of CD4+ T cells is a critical pathogenic factor in the development of autoimmune inflammatory diseases. Recent studies have shown that EGCG affects the differentiation of naïve CD4+ T cells into different effector subsets in a way that would be expected to favorably impact autoimmunity. Consistent with these findings, studies using animal models of autoimmune diseases have reported disease improvement in animals treated with green tea/EGCG. Altogether, these studies identify and support the use of EGCG as a potential therapeutic agent in preventing and ameliorating T cell-mediated autoimmune diseases. Given the paucity of information in human studies, the translational value of these findings needs to be verified in future research.
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