The consumption of tea (Camellia sinensis) has been correlated with a low incidence of chronic pathologies, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, in which oxidative stress plays a critical role. Tea catechins and theaflavins are, respectively, the bioactive phytochemicals responsible for the antioxidant activity of green tea (GT) and black tea (BT). In addition to their redox properties, tea catechins and theaflavins could have also pharmacological activities, such as the ability to lower glucose, lipid and uric acid (UA) levels. These activities are mediated by pharmacological mechanisms such as enzymatic inhibition and interaction with transporters. Epigallocatechin gallate is the most active compound at inhibiting the enzymes involved in cholesterol and UA metabolism (hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA reductase and xanthine oxidase respectively) and affecting glucose transporters. The structural features of catechins that significantly contribute to their pharmacological effect are the presence/absence of the galloyl moiety and the number and positions of the hydroxyl groups on the rings. Although the inhibitory effects on α-glucosidase, maltase, amylase and lipase, multidrug resistance 1, organic anion transporters and proton-coupled folate transport occur at higher concentrations than those apparent in the circulation, these effects could be relevant in the gut. In conclusion, despite the urgent need for further research in humans, the regular consumption of moderate quantities of GT and BT can effectively modulate their antioxidant capacity, mainly in people subjected to oxidative stress, and could improve the metabolism of glucose, lipid and UA.
Linked articles: This article is part of a themed section on Principles of Pharmacological Research of Nutraceuticals. To view the other articles in this section visit http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bph.v174.11/issuetoc.
© 2016 The British Pharmacological Society.