The major ingredient in tea is catechins, a group of polyphenols. Polyphenols are a group of chemicals characterized by having two or more phenol groups in each molecule. Polyphenols are present in many plants, and it is for instance polyphenols that causes the vivid coloration of leaves in autumn when the green chlorophyll have vanished. High amounts of polyphenols can be found in green tea and white tea, since these tea types are less oxidized than black tea and oolong tea. Polyphenols are also present in many other plants, and you will therefore ingest polyphenols every time you drink a glass of red wine, use olive oil in your salad dressing or feast on some high-quality dark chocolate.
Polyphenols act as powerful antioxidants in the human body, which means that they might help us to prevent a wide range of different health problems.
Modern research indicates that antioxidants can counteract the spreading of cancer cells, but much more research is needed before we can understand exactly how these intricate processes actually work.
Other scientific studies have showed that polyphenols might be useful in cancer treatment, since they are capable of hampering the growth of the blood vessels that provide the cancer tumors with nutrition.
As mentioned above, the polyphenols in green and white tea acts as antioxidants. Oxidation is a naturally occurring process that will always take place in the human body.
This process will create compounds known as “free radicals”.
Free radicals will react with other molecules and can for instance destroy cancer cells and attack unwanted microorganisms.
Unfortunately, they can also react with molecules in our DNA and thereby damage healthy cells.
Antioxidants will bind themselves to oxidizing agents, and thereby prevent oxidizing agents from reacting with other molecules, such as DNA molecules.
Polyphenols are not the only compounds capable of acting as antioxidants in the human body; other examples of powerful antioxidants are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium.