NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A compound found in green tea could slow or even prevent the development of type 1 diabetes, new research in mice suggests.

Green tea contains several antioxidants that have been shown to curb inflammation, prevent cell death, and possibly even ward off cancer.

In the current study, Dr. Stephen D. Hsu of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and colleagues tested the effects of green tea’s predominate antioxidant known as EGCG in laboratory mice with type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome, which damages moisture-producing glands causing dry mouth and eyes.

They fed the mice plain water or water spiked with 0.2 percent EGCG.

EGCG, the investigators found, reduced the severity and delayed the onset of salivary gland damage associated with Sjogren’s syndrome — a condition with no known cure.

EGCG also dramatically slowed the development of type 1 diabetes in the rodents. At 16 weeks, they found, 25 percent of the mice given the green tea compound had developed diabetes, compared to 67 percent of the mice given water. At 22 weeks, 45 percent of the EGCG group had diabetes, while 78 percent of the control group did.

“Our study focused on Sjogren’s syndrome, so learning that EGCG also can prevent and delay insulin-dependent type 1 diabetes was a big surprise,” Hsu said in a statement.

Both type 1 diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome are autoimmune diseases, which cause the body to attack itself.

Hsu and his team also found that the salivary gland cells that were under autoimmune attack were actually multiplying, but EGCG slowed this proliferation. Such rapid cell division has also been shown to occur in psoriasis.

The current study supports earlier research showing EGCG’s impact on helping prevent autoimmune disease, the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Life Sciences, October 24, 2008.