Tea enhances insulin activity

J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Nov 20;50(24):7182-6. doi: 10.1021/jf020514c.


The most widely known health benefits of tea relate to the polyphenols as the principal active ingredients in protection against oxidative damage and in antibacterial, antiviral, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic activities, but polyphenols in tea may also increase insulin activity. The objective of this study was to determine the insulin-enhancing properties of tea and its components. Tea, as normally consumed, was shown to increase insulin activity >15-fold in vitro in an epididymal fat cell assay. Black, green, and oolong teas but not herbal teas, which are not teas in the traditional sense because they do not contain leaves of Camellia senensis, were all shown to increase insulin activity. High-performance liquid chromatography fractionation of tea extracts utilizing a Waters SymmetryPrep C18 column showed that the majority of the insulin-potentiating activity for green and oolong teas was due to epigallocatechin gallate. For black tea, the activity was present in several regions of the chromatogram corresponding to, in addition to epigallocatechin gallate, tannins, theaflavins, and other undefined compounds. Several known compounds found in tea were shown to enhance insulin with the greatest activity due to epigallocatechin gallate followed by epicatechin gallate, tannins, and theaflavins. Caffeine, catechin, and epicatechin displayed insignificant insulin-enhancing activities. Addition of lemon to the tea did not affect the insulin-potentiating activity. Addition of 5 g of 2% milk per cup decreased the insulin-potentiating activity one-third, and addition of 50 g of milk per cup decreased the insulin-potentiating activity approximately 90%. Nondairy creamers and soy milk also decreased the insulin-enhancing activity. These data demonstrate that tea contains in vitro insulin-enhancing activity and the predominant active ingredient is epigallocatechin gallate.

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Biflavonoids*
  • Camellia sinensis / chemistry*
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Catechin / isolation & purification
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Chemical Fractionation
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Drug Synergism
  • Epididymis
  • Flavonoids*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Insulin / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Milk
  • Phenols / isolation & purification
  • Phenols / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Polymers / isolation & purification
  • Polymers / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Tannins / isolation & purification
  • Tannins / pharmacology
  • Tea / chemistry*


  • Biflavonoids
  • Flavonoids
  • Insulin
  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polymers
  • Tannins
  • Tea
  • theaflavin
  • Catechin
  • epicatechin gallate
  • epigallocatechin gallate
  • Glucose