Green tea extract: is this herb safe in dog, cat diets?
Green tea extract has been around for centuries, but its use in pet foods is a very modern consideration that is long on extrapolation and short on proof of benefit.
Green tea extract is derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush. Dried green tea leaves are used to make the popular hot beverage, and the extracts play a central role in herbal medicine. More recently, purified extracts have found favor as a nutraceutical and food antioxidant preservative.
While green tea extract is not technically permitted in US pet foods, there are a number of dog and cat diets that contain this ingredient on their label. It is being promoted for a myriad of effects from health and wellness of the animal to a key component of modern, natural antioxidant preservative systems. There is plenty of human-focused production, consumption, medical and analytical research published on the topic. Green tea has been considered a contributing factor in cancer prevention; and claimed to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, possess bactericidal and anti-viral activity, prevent halitosis and modulate blood sugar; along with a host of other benefits. It has very high name recognition and acceptability with consumers; but does this ingredient really have a place in diets for our pets?
Use of green tea dates back more than 4,000 years to China, where it was originally consumed for medicinal purposes. Most green tea production occurs in the Asian subtropics (China, India, Japan, Indonesia, etc.), where today there are dozens of different green tea varieties. Once the tea leaves are harvested, they are steamed to stop enzyme activity (e.g. polyphenol oxidase) and then dried before leaf fermentation can occur. Contrast this to black and oolong teas, which…