What is tea?
Believe it or not, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water and consists of the leaves of the plant “Camellia Sinensis.”
Depending on the processing of Camellia Sinesis leaves after collection, it can lead to:
- Green tea: Unfermented and non-oxidized leaves.
- Black tea or Red tea: Fermented and oxidized leaves.
- Oolong: Partially fermented and oxidized leaves.
- White tea: Unfermented and non-oxidized.
White tea is made from the young leaves of the camellia sinesis and the connection of of white tea to some cultures such as in Japan, England, or China is so strong that it has even developed its own “tea culture” with different kinds of blends and flavors that make drinking tea a unique experience of both aroma and taste. But besides this special characteristic of making tea an artistic and gastronomic experience, this beverage has been gaining a lot of attention in the last few years in the science field due to its health properties. So what makes green tea, in particular, special?
As this type of tea does not undergo any fermentation or oxidation process, green tea has been found to be superior to the other types of tea because of its greater antioxidant activity owing to the higher content of bioactive compounds called “catechins.” These compounds form part of a big family of natural chemicals found in other teas, in cacao and in some types of berries: the “flavonoids.”
Until now, there have been over 4,000 types of different flavonoids identified, however, what makes green tea’s flavonoids unique is that compared to the other types of tea, it contains the greatest amounts of the most beneficial flavonoids, and thus, it has garnered more attention for scientific study. Let’s take a look at what modern health research says about the properties of this beverage:
Green tea compounds interact with some of the enzymes that are key for the digestion process. Lipase (which breaks down lipids for being absorbed), amylase, and glucosidase, which are essential for carbohydrate digestion. By inhibiting these enzymes, tea compounds lower the absorption of fats and sugars and reduce caloric intake in the body decreasing weight-gain.
Improved fat burn capacity
The process of burning fats in order to produce energy or other substrates needed for the body’s metabolism is known as lipolysis. Green tea compounds have been shown in many studies to improve metabolization of fats. One of the mechanisms exposed is related to the activation of an enzyme called ‘AMPK’ that stimulates fat oxidation.
Cardiovascular disease is the main worldwide cause of death and is linked closely to blood pressure, inflammation and oxidation levels, as well as to the lipids profile (cholesterol and triglycerides). Several studies have demonstrated that green tea can have a significant protective role against this condition because of its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
A recent study made in China, where tea has been used traditionally as medicine for centuries, showed that the individuals with daily green tea consumption had lower risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke and also lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Cancer preventive components of green tea’s compounds have been extensively studied by scientists all over the world, where tea’s flavonoids play a key role. The relevance of these compounds with the development of Cancer involves essentially the inhibition of tumor cell proliferation and the protection of the DNA caused by cancerous cells.
Time for a tea?
Drinking tea is considered a health-promoting habit since ancient times, but modern science explains to us a why. So, next time remember that a cup of tea is more than just a beverage, is a cup of good health.
- Jeukendrup A., Hodgson B., Randell R. The effect of Green Tea Extract on fat oxidation at rest and during exercise: Evidence of efficacy and proposed mechanisms. 2013. Adv. Nutr.
- Rothenberg D., Zhou C., Zhang L. A review on the Weight-Loss effects of Oxidized Polyphenols. Molecules. 2018; 23(5):13 1176
- Pang J., Zhang Z., Bassig B. Green Tea consumption and risk of cardiovascular and ischemic diseases: a meta-analysis. 2015. International Journal of Cardiology.
- Prasanth MI, Sivamaruthi BS, Chaiyasut C, Tencomnao T. A Review of the Role of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) in Antiphotoaging, Stress Resistance, Neuroprotection, and Autophagy Nutrients. 2019;11(2):474