What is Theaflavin?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Theaflavin is a chemical made up of antioxidant polyphenols. Commonly found in black tea, the plant-produced chemical has been clinically proven to prevent the accumulation of free radicals in the body. As a result, theaflavin is a popular compound in cancer research, as well as in other disease studies and treatments.

Theaflavin is commonly found in black tea.
Theaflavin is commonly found in black tea.

When green tea is fermented to become black tea, three different theaflavins are created. Called theaflavin-3-gallate, theaflavin-3’-gallate and theaflavin-3,3’-digallate, they can also be found in oolong tea. The presence of these antioxidants alters both the hue as well as the flavor of the tea.

Theaflavin is made of antioxidants.
Theaflavin is made of antioxidants.

One reason why many proponents of homeopathic medicine promote tea drinking is because of the presence of theaflavins in the tea. Theaflavins have been useful in slowing the growth of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, cells, which could help scientists discover a cure for the disease. Some studies suggest that regular consumption of theaflavin may help lower one's levels of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol.

Theaflavin is able to pass through the blood-brain barrier and may help prevent dementia.
Theaflavin is able to pass through the blood-brain barrier and may help prevent dementia.

People who regularly drank theaflavins for 90 days in one study were able to lower their cholesterol by nearly 12 percent. Levels of LDL cholesterol specifically were reduced by 16 percent. Participants in the study were also able to raise their levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol that the body needs, slightly.

Cardiovascular health and the immune system can both be improved by regularly consuming theaflavins. Able to bypass the blood brain barrier, the chemical can also help ward off dementia. The disease known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, is said to be prevented by the antioxidant.

Several other health benefits may result from the tea antioxidants. An antiviral agent, theaflavin may help lower blood sugar levels. One study shows that it may help enhance the functions of the liver, as well as reduce the amount of lipids and body weight of an organism. Most of these possible benefits remain under review by the scientific community. Many physicians also point out that black tea consumed in conjunction with a low-fat diet yields the most health benefits.

For people who do not wish to consume tea, theaflavin is available in supplement form. To get the benefits of the antioxidants, one capsule is usually enough for a full day's supply. To drink the benefits of theaflavins, five cups of black tea are generally recommended daily. While this remedy is considered safe for most people, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid it.

When green tea is fermented to become black tea, three different theaflavins are created.
When green tea is fermented to become black tea, three different theaflavins are created.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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