What are Theaflavins?
Tea is among the most popular drinks in the whole world. Green tea has hit the headlines of late because of its incredible health benefits but did you know that black tea was also good for you?
The reason that black tea is such a healthy beverage is the presence of theaflavins – a class of flavonoid with outstanding antioxidant benefits. Black tea is made of the leaves harvested from the tea plants known scientifically as Camellia sinensis. The plant originated in various parts of Asia where its has long been used as a therapeutic herb.
Before the tea leaves hit the shelves, they must first be cured. The curing process has a big effect on the appearance and flavor of your tea. Black tea has been cured for a long time while white tea is cured for a considerably shorter period.
This curing process also changes the compounds present in the leaves by oxidizing their components. When tea leaves are freshly picked, they contain a large amount of catechins which get converted into theaflavins. There are various different theoflavins including theaflavin -3- gallate and theaflavin-3-3’ digallate. These theaflavins are largely responsible for the dark color of black tea as well as its stronger flavor.
As well as their effects on the flavor and appearance of your tea, theaflavins have a variety of biological effects. They have been extensively studied in the laboratory since the later part of the 20th century.
According to research, black tea theaflavins have a wide range of medicinal uses from reducing cholesterol and protecting the heart from disease to treating headaches and providing antioxidant support.
You can of course get your theoflavins from simply drinking black tea but for those of you who are not so fond of tea and would like a health boost, theoflavins are also available in supplementary form.
If you would like to find out more about theaflavins and exactly how they can benefit your health, please read on.
The Health Benefits of Theaflavins
1) Antioxidant Benefits of Theaflavins
Theaflavins are natural plant compounds or polyphenols with wonderful antioxidant effects on the human body. The body needs antioxidants to help fight against the damage caused by free radicals that we encounter every day in the environment, household chemicals and even food. The damage caused by free radicals is also known as oxidative stress and is responsible for various diseases including heart disease, cancer and even the appearance of premature aging.
Studies have demonstrated that the theaflavins in black tea are able to reverse this damage by scavenging for and inhibiting the generation of free radicals. (1)
Other studies have revealed that theaflavins can inhibit the activities of enzymes which contribute to oxidative stress. This is excellent news. Given that black tea is cheap and readily available throughout the world, it could represent a major benefit to the health of society.
2) Cancer Prevention
The ongoing search for a cure for cancer leaves few stones unturned. Researchers have made promising discoveries in the natural world with various herbs and plants demonstrating anti-cancer potential in the laboratory.
In once study, scientists found that theaflavins extracted from black tea led to the inhibition and programmed death of stomach cancer cells. The authors of this study suggest that drinking large amounts of black tea may actually protect a person from developing cancer in the first place. (2)
According to another study, both theaflavins and catechins extracted from tea leaves are also able to inhibit the development of prostate cancer cells. Both in vitro and animal studies have been done with very promising results. (3)
Other studies have also found a link between the consumption of tea and a reduced breast cancer risk but more studies are needed.
3) Weight Control and Obesity
There is some evidence that theaflavins can help people to control their weight and may even help combat obesity.
According to a study published in 2007, theaflavins significantly reduced lipid accumulation, suppressed the synthesis of fatty acids and stimulated the oxidation of fatty acids. According to researchers, theaflavins might have some potential in preventing both obesity and fatty liver. (4)
According to research into the benefits of dietary polyphenols, theaflavins might have a positive impact on people with diabetes. Both studies on animals and a limited number of human trials have found the polyphenols found in tea leaves can improve insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion. This makes theaflavins a potential natural treatment for people with diabetes. (5)
Another study also found that drinking four or so cups of tea a day had positive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on patients with diabetes. (6)
High cholesterol levels are one of the major risk factors in heart disease like atherosclerosis and heart attack as well as many other illnesses. There is some evidence that regularly drinking black tea or supplementing with theaflavins could reduce LDL cholesterol in people with a high cholesterol level.
One study published in 2003 looked at the effects of green tea enriched with theaflavins on 240 volunteers with moderately elevated cholesterol. The results of the study were promising and the researchers concluded that tea extract enriched with theaflavins was an effective adjunct to a low-fat diet for reducing LDL cholesterol. In addition, supplementing with theaflavins was well tolerated and no adverse effects were reported. (7)
6) Theaflavins and HIV
According to research, theaflavins have a potent effect on the HIV virus. Several polyphenols found in tea can actually inhibit the replication of HIV-1 through various mechanisms. Polyphenols like theaflavins can inhibit the entry of HIV-1 into the cells.
According to researchers, theaflavins could be developed into an affordable and safe microbe killer to prevent the transmission of HIV through sex.
The actual mechanisms are complex but for those of you who would like the full details, you can click on the full research articles at the bottom of this page. (8)
7) Brain Health and Parkinson’s Disease
There has been some research into the potential of certain polyphenols as regards neuroprotection and specifically their effects against Parkinson’s disease.
One recent study published in 2015 found that polyphenols found in green and black tea including theaflavins could play a vital role in halting or delaying the progression of the disease. (9)
Tea polyphenols have the ability to protect against neural degeneration largely because of their [potent antioxidant properties. Research indicates that they also modulate the cellular pathways. According to the authors of the study, theaflavins and other tea polyphenols might offer a safe and effective future treatment for Parkinson’s and other progressive neural diseases.
As well as having so many benefits internally, theaflavins may also have a positive effect on your oral health. According to recent research, their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties are the perfect combination for tackling gum disease or gingivitis.
The study published in 2015 found that theaflavins could inhibit the P.gingivalis bacteria responsible for the condition and also reduce the inflammation caused by gingivitis. (10)
This is great news for people who are plagued with gum disease. Theaflavins may represent a safe and effective method of combating gum disease and preventing its recurrence.
Dosing and Precautions
You can get more theaflavins into your system by simply consuming more green and black tea. For those of you who do not enjoy tea so much, then you could always go the supplementary route. Theaflavins are available in capsule form online and at many health stores.
There is no recommended dose but up to now, there have been no reports of adverse side effects.