Green tea supplements modulate facial growth in children with Down syndrome
A new study led by Belgian and Spanish researchers has been published in Scientific Reports Adds evidence about the potential benefits of green tea extracts on Down syndrome. Researchers note that taking green tea extracts can reduce facial disfigurement in children with Down syndrome when consumed during the first three years of life. Additional experimental research in mice confirmed the positive effects at lower doses. However, they also found that high doses of the extract can disrupt facial and bone growth. More research is needed to fully understand the effects of green tea extracts and thus it should always be taken under medical supervision.
Down syndrome is caused by the presence of a third copy of chromosome 21, which leads to the overexpression of genes in this region and results in a number of physical and mental disabilities. One of the genes, DYRK1A, contributes to altering brain and bone development in people with Down syndrome. EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) is known to inhibit DYRK1A activity, although it also has other mechanisms of action. Previous research has shown the ability of EGCG to improve cognition in young adults with Down syndrome.
In a new study, researchers analyzed the effect of green tea supplementation on facial development in Down syndrome. In the experimental part of the study, EGCG supplementation was tested in mice with different doses. In the second part of the research, they did an observational study of children with and without Down syndrome. This work, led by the Center for Genome Regulation (CRG), European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), University of Barcelona in Spain and KU Leuven in Belgium, is an international effort involving researchers from the University of Central Florida, La Salle – Ramon Yue University, and IMIM – Research Institute. Hospital del Mar.
For the rat study, conducted at KU Leuven, researchers began treatment before birth while the pups were growing in their mothers’ wombs, by adding a low or high dose of green tea extracts to their drinking water. Professor Gretigi Vande Velde (KU Leuven), co-lead author of the study, commented: “The low-dose treatment had a positive effect on mice considered a model of Down syndrome.” “60% of them showed a similar facial shape to the control group.”
“However, the treatment with a high dose produced very different results and even disrupted the normal growth of the face in some cases, causing additional deformation. This occurred in all mice, in the model of Down syndrome as well as in the control group.”
The observational study was set up in Spain and also included North American participants. 287 children aged 0-18 years, including children with Down syndrome who received (n = 13) or did not receive (n = 63) EGCG supplements. The treated group all underwent self-medication and did not follow a specific protocol.
“All the participants were photographed from different angles to create a 3D model of their faces,” explains Neus Martínez-Abadías, a professor at the University of Barcelona and co-author of the study. We use 21 facial features and the distances between them to compare participants’ faces. In the younger group between 0 and 3 years of age, we observed that 57 percent of the linear distances differed significantly when comparing the faces of children with Down syndrome who had never received treatment with children without Down syndrome. For the infants and young children who received EGCG treatment, this difference was much less, only 25 percent. After taking green tea supplements, the facial distortion lessens and children with or without Down syndrome appear more similar.
We did not identify a similar effect in the adolescent group. Even when treated with green tea extracts, children with Down syndrome still showed a difference of over 50 percent compared to the control group. These results indicate that green tea supplements only affect facial growth when taken in the early stages of life when the face and skull are rapidly growing.
More research is required
“Despite the potential benefits we have observed, we must treat these results with caution since they are preliminary and based on an observational study,” warns Professor Vandi Velde. More research is necessary to evaluate the effects of supplementation containing EGCG, the appropriate dosage and their overall therapeutic potential. We also need to consider the potential effects on other organs and systems, not just facial growth. This requires first more basic in vitro research in mice, then clinical studies with more participants and controlled use of these supplements. ”
“Our findings indicate that the effects of EGCG are highly dose dependent.” Professor Martinez-Abadias concludes. EGCG products are commercially available and are used regularly as general health-promoting compounds. However, it is important to follow the recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority regarding maximum amount and always consult a doctor before taking supplements. Our research shows the potential beneficial effects for facial growth at low doses, but at very high doses. “Unexpected effects can occur in mice. More research is needed in humans to determine the optimal dose at each age that maximizes the potential benefits.”
We acknowledge the support provided by private foundations BBVA, Marguerite-Marie Delacroix and Jerome Lejeune Foundation; Institutional support from CRG Centro de Excelencia Severo Ochoa, University of Central Florida and KU Leuven; In addition to public funding resources from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Flemish Research Foundation, and the former Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness.
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