Tea & Antioxidants
By William I. Lengeman III
Tea is not just good but it’s also good for you - or so the story goes. There are a number of research studies that have offered compelling evidence in favor of this notion. A number of brief articles have also appeared at this very site examining how tea might help us in treating various and sundry types of ailments.
But how does it all work? It’s a great question and one that I wouldn’t dare attempt to tackle in the short space allotted here. Let’s oversimplify things quite a bit and say that much of the benefit we derive from drinking tea comes from the antioxidants it contains. In tea’s case, one of the most notable of these antioxidants are a compound known as catechins. For a rather technical overview of what catechins are and how they work, start with this Wikipedia entry.
All of which is well and good, assuming that our bodies are able to absorb and process the beneficial substances that will help cure what ails us. A study in the Journal of Nutrition a while back took a look at this very issue. A group of Italian researchers undertook a study on green tea flavanols to try to determine, as a recent article at the Tea News put it, “what percentage of the antioxidants contained within green tea stay in the body after digestion.” Study results were generally positive.
Another (rather offbeat) study on catechins found a group of researchers from Hong Kong testing how well catechins derived from tea were absorbed into rat’s eyes. Being a layperson I have to admit that it’s not clear exactly what their findings were or even why the study was undertaken.