The Green Tea Secret
by Kristy Haugen  
Polyphenols are phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Phytonutrients are biologically
active compounds in food. However, these phytonutrients are not classified as
essential nutrients. This is because the body does not depend on these nutrients for
proper bodily function. Phytonutrients do play a vital role in affecting our health just
as significantly as vitamins and minerals do.

Polyphenols are classified as flavonoids, which is a class of phytonutrient. Polyphenols
can form complexes with metal cations such as iron, zinc, and copper. This reduces
the absorption of the mineral. This is beneficial because excess levels of these cations
promotes the generation of free radicals. Polyphenols are potent free radical
scavengers in the body. Polyphenols also protect and regenerate other dietary
oxidants such as vitamin E.

Polyphenols are plentiful in green tea. Polyphenols have been found to be more
powerful as an antioxidant than even vitamins C and E. In particular, EGCG or
epigallocatechin gallate is the major polyphenolic constituent of green tea. EGCG is a
potent antioxidant. A number of chronic diseases have been thought to be caused by
free radical damage such as cancer, aging, and heart disease.

Antioxidants protect the body from free radical damage. What are free radicals? Free
radicals are caused by cigarette smoking, radiation, pollution, and herbicides. Free
radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons in the outer shell. The unpaired electrons
make free radicals unstable. Free radicals want only to be stable. Free radical stability
requires the electrons to be paired. Free radicals are extremely reactive and will
oxidize the nearest molecule.

Oxidizing causes the free radical to gain an electron but also creates another free
radical. This creates a chain reaction continuing until the disruption of a living cell. Free
radicals can attack proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and DNA. However, DNA is usually
preferred. DNA and free radical interactions usually result in mutations that adversely
affect the cell cycle and potentially lead to malignancy. In fact, researchers believe
this is how many forms of cancer arise.

Antioxidants protect the body from damaging oxidation reactions. Antioxidants safely
interact with free radicals to prevent damage to vital molecules. Antioxidants donate
an electron to the free radical, hence stabilizing the free radical and preventing
damage. The antioxidant is stable with or without the electron, making this a win-win

Polyphenols can be found in white, black, and green tea. Of course, the level of
polyphenols along with other nutrients is based on how the tea is processed.
Steamed white and green tea retains more polyphenols and nutrients than roasting
and fermenting. Black teas and some green teas are fermented and roasted,
damaging the bioactive substances in the tea leaf.

Why should you drink green tea? Many studies have been done on the health benefits
of green tea. Dietary intake of green tea has been linked to a reduced risk of cancer
and heart disease. Regular consumption of green tea shows no significant side
effects. Green tea helps prevent cavities, strengthens teeth, and is thought to kill oral
bacteria that is responsible for bad breath. Green tea has been shown to protect the
brain from oxidative stress and lower monoamine oxidase activity; preventing age
related brain degeneration. Green tea studies suggest an increase in exercise
endurance by improving the metabolism of fat.

Green tea offers many health benefits to those who drink green tea regularly. Besides
offering antioxidant benefits, green tea is excellent as a weight loss supplement
offering weight loss results and safety. Of course, green tea should be used in
combination with a healthy diet and exercise program. If you take medications for a
health condition, consult your doctor before adding green tea to your diet.

Copyright 2006 Kristy Haugen

About The Author

Kristy Haugen is a mother working to finish her second bachelor degree in Chemical
Engineering. She is also a Licensed Practical Nurse with a current bachelor degree in
Biology and Chemistry. She writes to inform consumers about nutrition and health
topics. Learn more about weight loss supplements at
. Learn more about vitamins and
your health at
The chemical compound known
as a phenol is characterized by
an aromatic benzene ring with a
hydroxyl group (OH) attached.
This makes sense that
poly-phenols refer to a chemical
substance with more than one
phenol group. Phenols function
as potent antioxidants, reacting
with free radicals. Phenols are
responsible for the bright coloring
in many fruits and vegetables.
These fruit and vegetable phenols
protect the plants from damage
by disease and ultraviolet light.
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