Babies with Down’s syndrome who are given green-tea supplements may be less likely to develop the disorder’s classic facial features, new research suggests.
When the powerful antioxidant ECGC, which is found in green tea, was given to seven Down’s syndrome sufferers before the age of three, six developed facial dimensions that matched or closely resembled their healthy peers, a controversial Spanish study found.
This is thought to be due to ECGC inhibiting the enzyme DYRK1A, which may be responsible for typical Down’s syndrome features, such as a short neck, flattened face, upward slanting eyes and a small mouth.
Researchers hope ‘normalising’ the facial features of Down’s syndrome may help to reduce the stigma patients experience, however, not all families feel comfortable doing this.
Professor Linda Gilmore from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘Some [families] are keen to try anything that might make things easier cognitively and socially, even treatments and interventions that have not been established scientifically.
‘Others feel strongly about not changing their child’s personality or appearance – not changing the person they are.’
Previous research suggests giving paediatric Down’s syndrome patients ECGC boosts their memory and reasoning skills.
Babies with Down’s syndrome who are given green tea supplements may be less likely to develop the disorder’s classic facial features, new research suggests (stock)
WHAT IS DOWN’S SYNDROME?
Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition that typically causes some degree of learning disability and certain physical characteristics.
- Floppiness at birth
- Eyes that slant down and out
- A small mouth
- A flat back of head
Screening tests can uncover Down’s syndrome during pregnancy but are not completely accurate.
It is caused by an extra chromosome in a baby’s cell due to a genetic change in the sperm or egg.
The risk increases according to the age of the mother.
A 20-year-old woman has around a one in 1,500 chance of having a baby with Down’s syndrome.
Women in their 40s have a one in 100 chance.
There is no evidence women can reduce their risk.
Down’s syndrome does not have a cure.
Treatment focuses on supporting the patient’s development.
Down’s syndrome sufferers are more at risk of health complications such as heart disorders, hearing problems, thyroid issues and recurrent infections.
Source: NHS Choices
Supplements ‘risky at this stage’
Results further suggest ECGC is only effective when given to patients under three, which may be due to their faces still forming.
Low doses are also optimal, with mouse studies suggesting higher ECGC quantities cause facial deformities.
Experts therefore warn parents should not give their children such supplements as their ideal dosing is unclear.
Jean Maurice Delabar from the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris, who has been involved in similar studies, told the New Scientist: ‘It is very important to state that non-prescribed use of this compound – even if found in green tea – is risky at this stage.’
He also warns the study was small and included children who took ECGC supplements over varied durations; therefore larger investigations are required.
How the research was carried out
The researchers, from the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, analysed 13 healthy children who took EGCG supplements.
They compared these children’s facial features against both young Down’s syndrome sufferers and other healthy youngsters, neither of which were taking the supplements.
The supplements contained ECGC doses equivalent to eight glasses of green tea.
The powerful antioxidant ECGC, which is found in green tea, may inhibit the enzyme DYRK1A, which could be responsible for typical Down’s syndrome facial features (stock)
English breakfast tea boosts metabolism when taken without milk
This comes after research released in October last year suggested English breakfast tea may aid weight loss by boosting people’s metabolisms, but only if taken without milk.
A black brew is thought to raise metabolism as its larger molecules are poorly absorbed in the intestine, which may encourage the growth of weight loss-boosting bacteria, a study found.
Research has previously suggested English breakfast tea only relaxes blood vessels, which leads to improved blood flow, when taken without milk.
The new study also found both black and green tea appear to have weight-loss benefits by reducing levels of intestinal bacteria associated with obesity and increasing those linked to lean body mass, the study found.
Study author Dr Zhaoping Li from the University of California, Los Angeles, said: ‘For black tea lovers, there may be a new reason to keep drinking it.’