Tea, a popular beverage made from leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis, has been shown to reduce body weight, alleviate metabolic syndrome, and prevent diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in animal models and humans. Such beneficial effects have generally been observed in most human studies when the level of tea consumption was three to four cups (600-900 mg tea catechins) or more per day. Green tea is more effective than black tea. In spite of numerous studies, the fundamental mechanisms for these actions still remain unclear. From a review of the literature, we propose that the two major mechanisms are: (i) decreasing absorption of lipids and proteins by tea constituents in the intestine, thus reducing calorie intake; and (ii) activating AMP-activated protein kinase by tea polyphenols that are bioavailable in the liver, skeletal muscle, and adipose tissues. The relative importance of these two mechanisms depends on the types of tea and diet consumed by individuals. The activated AMP-activated protein kinase would decrease gluconeogenesis and fatty acid synthesis and increase catabolism, leading to body weight reduction and metabolic syndrome alleviation. Other mechanisms and the health relevance of these beneficial effects of tea consumption remain to be further investigated.
Keywords: AMPK; Diabetes; EGCG; Obesity; Tea.
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