Flavonoids and polyphenols in green tea are linked to several health benefits in humans.  What are flavonoids and polyphenols?  They are antioxidants.  There is a lot of information about the high amounts of antioxidants in tea, chocolate, and fruits.  But what exactly are antioxidants?  And why are they good for humans?  Oxygen is the basis of life, right?

Although oxygen is essential to human life, it can also make people sick.  Oxygen helps convert food to energy, but too much can damage cells.  Free radicals – found in the body and the environment – are highly reactive molecules that damage healthy cells, creating more free radicals.  Damaged cells lead to DNA mutations and diseases.  Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, protecting the healthy cells.

Scientists believe green tea is a great source of flavonoids to supplement a healthy diet.  Flavonoids are also found in fruits and vegetables.  Research shows a link between a flavonoid-rich diet and a low risk of heart disease.  This connection was first made in France.  The majority of French adults are heavy smokers and have diets high in fat, but live longer than Americans.  The French also drink more red wine, which is rich in antioxidants.  Three of the most powerful antioxidants found in red wine – catechin, epicatechin, and gallic acid – are also found in green tea.  Polyphenols are linked to decreasing bad cholesterol levels, reducing plaque formation, and increasing blood flow.  The polyphenols inhibit cholesterol absorption, decreasing plaque formulation.  Plaque accumulation leads to blocked blood vessels, arteries, and heart attacks.  Looking closer at how polyphenols stop cholesterol absorption, scientists have found they bonded with bile salt and emulsified cholesterol, forming an insoluble solid.

Green tea is also linked to good oral health.  Plaque-forming bacteria converts sugar and other carbohydrates into acids.  These acids form a hard biomass, which attacks the minerals on the outermost surface of the tooth.  The plaque eats through the tooth enamel, forming cavities.  Polyphenols are found to stop the bacteria from attaching to the tooth surface.  Fluoride, a compound found in green tea, has been shown to protect tooth enamel.

Tooth decay is less prevalent in areas where fluoride is present in the water supply.  Fluoride from the soil accumulates in tea leaves.  More fluoride is released when tea is steeped in low-fluoride-content water.  Tea leaves absorb the fluoride when steeped in high-fluoride-content water.  Fluoride in green tea offers fluoride protection in two ways – drinking tea exposes fluoride to the tooth surface and swallowing green tea incorporates fluoride into the tooth structure.

Polyphenols and flavonoids account for 78 percent of antioxidant potential in green tea.  These antioxidants protect the heart from harmful cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease.  Fluoride in green tea protects the tooth surface from cavities.  The antioxidants kill bacteria in the mouth.  Studies conclude that drinking three cups of green tea a day is a great start to supplementing a healthy diet.

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