Jim McCants’s father died at the age of 59 of a heart attack, and as the son began to near his father’s age of death, he decided to embark on a more healthy lifestyle.
The 50-year-old man from Prosper, near Dallas, Texas, started walking or running from a half hour to an hour 5 to 6 days a week, he told the BBC. He also tried to eat more healthy foods and lose some weight.
However, another choice he made at that time turned out to be a big mistake—he started taking a green tea supplement, because he heard there were possible heart benefits.
One day McCants sat down at his youngest son’s graduation from high school, and his wife Cathleen looked at him in concern.
“Do you feel okay?” she asked him, McCants told the BBC.
“Yeah, I feel fine. Why?” said McCants.
“Your face is yellow, your eyes are yellow, you look terrible,” she said.
“When I looked in the mirror it was shocking,” the finance manager said.
Driving a point home: This man ruined his liver trying to 'get healthy' with green #tea extract pills. Drink your tea, don't swallow a pill with way too much of a good thing in it! https://t.co/Y3y0StweFn pic.twitter.com/IbMJwfEQ6J
— CA_tea (@CA_tea) October 25, 2018
A Shocking Diagnosis
A visit to the doctor proved there was something seriously wrong with McCants’s liver, and the professionals began to investigate what could possibly be the cause.
McCants didn’t drink much, he never smoked, and he wasn’t taking any prescription drugs. However, when doctors asked if McCants was taking any supplements, he mentioned he’d been taking the green tea capsules for two to three months.
The green tea supplement was soon identified as the reason for his liver damage.
“It was shocking because I’d only heard about the benefits,” McCants told the BBC. “I’d not heard about any problems.”
The husband and father was hospitalized and underwent blood work to determine how bad the damage to his liver had become, and the results were not what he wanted to hear.
A doctor informed McCants that he was in desperate need of a liver transplant to save his life.
“You have days—you don’t have a week,” the doctor said, according to McCants.
Miraculously, the next day a liver was found that was a match, and McCants had the transplant surgery, which was successful.
It’s now been four years, and the Texan still has major health issues, including abdominal pain and kidney problems. He may soon have to undergo dialysis or a kidney transplant as well, according to the BBC.
— CBC News (@CBCNews) February 4, 2017
Green Tea Extract Safety ‘Not Well Defined’
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “The safety and tolerability of long-term use of green tea extracts has not been well defined.”
“Green tea extract and, more rarely, ingestion of large amounts of green tea have been implicated in cases of clinically apparent acute liver injury, including instances of acute liver failure and either need for urgent liver transplantation or death.”
The NIH website cites the case of a 37-year-old woman who began to experience abdominal pain, nausea, and jaundice after taking a weight-loss supplement with Chinese green tea extract as a major component. The woman’s case was reported in a study published in 2006.
Doctors assessed the damage to her liver, and her gallbladder was removed. After she stopped taking the supplement and the treatment was finished, she improved rapidly.
Surprisingly, one year later she returned to the hospital and admitted she had started taking the same supplement again. She was again treated and her liver tests were back to normal six months later.
“More than 50 instances of clinically apparent liver injury attributed to GTE (green tea extract) have been reported in the literature. Liver injury typically arises within 3 months, with latency to onset of symptoms ranging from 10 days to 7 months,” reported NIH.
However, side effects from drinking green tea itself are usually mild, states the website.
“If you are drinking modest amounts of green tea you’re very safe,” said Professor Herbert Bonkovsky, director of liver services at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina, who has been tracking injuries linked to green tea supplements for nearly 20 years, to the BBC.
“The greater risk comes in people who are taking these more concentrated extracts.”