Green Tea Compound Led to Improvements in CMT2 Case Study

Steve Bryson, PhD avatar

by Steve Bryson, PhD |

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Treating a woman with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease type 2 (CMT2) with an anti-inflammatory compound isolated from green tea led to increased muscle mass, improved motor skills, and reduced body fat and inflammatory markers, a case study reports.

The study, “Metabolic and Functional Improvements in a Patient with Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease Type 2 after EGCG Administration: A Case Report,” was published in the journal Medicina

CMT is a group of inherited disorders affecting the peripheral nervous system, the network of nerves outside the brain and spinal cord required for movement and sensation in the arms and legs.

Studies suggest that, as the disease progresses, chronic inflammation can develop, supporting the potential use of effective anti-inflammatory medicines to improve prognosis.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the primary chemical found in green tea, and has been shown to exhibit high anti-inflammatory effects. It has also been shown to decrease oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of toxic free radicals by metabolic processes and their clearance, resulting in tissue damage.

To investigate EGCG as a potential CMT treatment, researchers at various centers across Spain tested the impact of four months of EGCG treatment, versus a placebo, in a brother, 51, and sister, 56, who had CMT2 — a form of CMT caused by genetic defects that damage axons, the long projections in nerve cells that conduct signals.

The siblings were diagnosed in the same year and lived independent lives without additional medical problems. However, they experienced consistent weight gain, a serious consequence of CMT. 

While neither showed evidence of nerve conduction abnormalities, both had decreased sensitivity and motor responses as well as muscle twitches and irregular heartbeats while resting. The siblings had similar degrees of weakness in muscles connecting the knee, with noticeable weakness in the foot and lower leg muscles, leading to foot deformities. 

The genetic cause of their CMT was a mutation in the MME gene, which encodes a membrane protein that plays a role in recycling several protein-based hormones. The brother and sister were the only ones with CMT among five other siblings. There were no significant differences in disease severity between them.

Before treatment, the sister had a body mass index (BMI, body fat based on height) of 37 kg/cm2, which is classified as obese, as well as 28.6% body fat and 36.78% muscle mass. She reported muscle weakness, spasms, and fatigue. The brother had a BMI of 41.6 kg/cm2, body fat of 27.6%, and muscle mass of 34.25%. 

The sister was randomly assigned to blindly receive EGCG, given as 400 mg capsules at breakfast and dinner, while following a Mediterranean diet, which consisted of about 2,300 kilocalories per day of food comprising 55% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 15% protein. Her brother was given similar-looking capsules containing a placebo, and followed the same Mediterranean diet.

After four months, the sister had lost 6.5 cm (2.56 inches) around her waist compared with 7.5 cm (2.95 inches) for her brother, and both had similar reductions in BMI — 2.55 kg/cm2 for her and 2.3 kg/cm2 for him. 

In contrast, the sister’s body fat percentage dropped by 3.82% compared with her brother’s increase of 1.99%. Her muscle mass also increased by 2.8%, while the brother’s dropped 2.79%.

Her weight dropped from 92.4 kg to 86.2 kg, “with a decrease in body fat and an increase in muscle mass,” the team wrote. Her brother also lost weight, dropping to 112 kg from 118.4 kg, but his weight loss “was due to a decrease in muscle mass, which means there was a loss in strength and muscle power,” the researchers wrote.

Blood tests showed the sister, unlike her brother, had reduced levels of interleukin-6, a marker of inflammation, along with an increase in PON1, an enzyme marker for reduced oxidative stress and inflammation. 

The sister showed improvements in all applied motor skill tests, including a 2- and 10-minute walking test, a nine-hole peg test for coordination, and a handgrip strength test. 

In particular, her 2-minute walking test increased by 50 meters (164 feet), from 60 meters (197 feet) before treatment to 110 meters (361 feet) after four months of EGCG. 

“This evidence makes [EGCG] a possible therapeutic alternative to treat the disease, which could be interesting to try to improve the functional capacity of these patients,” the investigators wrote. 

“Nevertheless, definitive conclusions cannot be drawn regarding the results of a 4-month intervention, in the case of a progressive chronic disease; therefore, we must continue to delve into the understanding of the impact of this type of treatments in CMT2,” they added.