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.
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
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 situation.
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
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