tea cup leafIndividuals with multiple sclerosis (MS) often have severe muscle weakness and fatigue as a result of this autoimmune inflammatory condition. Finding ways to improve this common symptom is important to the quality of life of these patients.

A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a catechin found in green tea, may help improve muscle metabolism in people with relapsing MS.

EGCG has been shown to improve energy metabolism in individuals at rest and during exercise. In this study, the researchers set out to show that EGCG could improve energy metabolism and substrate utilization in 18 patients (10 women, 8 men) with a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial, all patients received 600 mg of EGCG daily or a placebo for 12 weeks separated by a 4-week washout period.

The primary outcome measurement was postprandial fat oxidation (FAOx) and the secondary measurement was muscle efficiency during moderate-intensity exercise. Postprandial FAOx was 40% higher in men and 21% lower in women who received EGCG compared with placebo.

At rest, postprandial energy expenditure (EE) and carbohydrate oxidation (CHOx) rates were lower in men but higher in women who received the EGCG compared with placebo. With both men and women, energy metabolism was more efficient in the EGCG group compared to placebo but the difference was higher with the men.

As an aside, researchers found that fasting postprandial triglyceride concentrations were normalized in the men taking EGCG compared with the placebo but not in the women. This is worth noting because individuals with MS are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease so it appears EGCG may offer some protection in men with MS.

An interesting aspect of this study is the sex-specific outcomes. The researchers speculate that this may be caused by EGCG’s influence of autonomic and endocrine tissues. It’s clear that more research in this area is needed to confirm the effects EGCG may have on individuals with MS. This preliminary research indicates that men will likely benefit more than women.