Exactly what are catechins? Why are they thought to be so beneficial for well-being? What is the best way to make sure you are consuming enough catechins in your diet?
Catechins are a type of plant polyphenol. Polyphenols are known to inhibit tumor growth and to lower the risk of heart disease. Catechins fall within a group of polyphenols known as flavanols. There are several different types of catechins:
- Epicatechin gallate
- Epigallocatechin gallate
on the consumption of catechins has made some foods, including green tea, red wine and chocolate, renowned for their antioxidant health benefits. Taking a look at both the potential and the positive results of studies on these phytochemicals you may want to boost your own intake of catechins by making sure some of the best food sources are a part of your diet.
carcinogens and to prevent the damage of DNA. With different types of catechins found in a variety of foods, yielding potentially different effects, it is important to eat a variety of food sources for the most protective effect.
For cardiovascular health they encourage blood vessel expansion, which would make the flow of blood through the body easier and more efficient. They also protect against the oxidation of fats, slowing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which helps to prevent atherosclerosis.
Catechins, when consumed regularly, have been shown to reduce body fat. Consumption through food sources may help to manage obesity.
As protective antioxidants these compounds help to prevent free radical damage. Green tea catechins have been found to be 30 times more powerful then vitamin E and 50 times more powerful then vitamin C, which are two of the most important nutrient-antioxidant compounds. Protecting cells from damage, catechins may be beneficial for slowing the aging process.
What Does the Research Say?
Catechin consumption may be beneficial for preventing some cancers, for cardiovascular well-being, for reducing excess fat and simply for slowing aging. What does the research on the benefits of these polyphenols say?
A 2002 study on the consumption of both food sources and tea found that catechins may help reduce the risk of rectal cancer and of cancer of the upper digestive tract. In this Iowa Women’s Health Study 34,651 postmenopausal, cancer-free women were followed for 12 years. According to the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, studies done to investigate the link between cancer prevention and the consumption of catechin-rich red wine found that the chances of developing both lung and prostate cancer were diminished. While there is a link of regular tea consumption, particularly green tea, and a lower risk of cancer of the skin, esophagus, stomach, colon, pancreas, lung, bladder, prostate and breast, this research is primarily based on studies with cells and animals. Research does show that catechins are likely to have benefits for reducing the risk of cancer but the American Cancer Society does not recommend drinking tea just to prevent cancer and it recommends limiting alcohol consumption rather then increasing it.
There has been research on the correlation between consuming catechins and cardiovascular health. Published in 2001 in Epidemiology, a study by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Netherlands, found that these compounds reduce the chances of dying from coronary heart disease. Participants who were not high-risk, they were not smokers, did not have diabetes and did have cardiovascular disease, showed the most promising results. This study also showed that it may be that certain catechins have a more potent
effect on heart health. Apples and red wine were the most beneficial food sources. The University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources also reports the benefits of regular consumption of dark chocolate for lowering high blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels and other cardiovascular benefits. It is however important to avoid too much fat and sugar with your catechin-rich cocoa.
Green tea catechins in particular are believed to help with fat reduction. One Japanese study published in 2005 found that daily tea consumption might be useful in the improvement of obesity. Study participants who took green tea extract showed reductions in body weight, BMI, waist circumference and body fat mass after twelve weeks.
Richest Food Sources
raspberries and pears are the best fruit sources. Be sure to eat a variety of these fruits for a variety of catechins. For example blackberries are extremely high in catechins but they are not as high in epicatechins. Cherries and apples on the other hand are higher in epicatechins.
Green tea is a good sources of catechins and epicatechins, but it is remarkably high in epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and epigallocatechin gallate with 114.25 mg/100g. Many of the other fruit and other food sources do not have any of these types of catechins or they have very small amounts.
Dark chocolate and cocoa are very high in epicatechin. Dark chocolate has an excellent amount of catechins. Chocolate is not a source of the other types of catechins. For high antioxidant consumption with chocolate be sure to look for the most unprocessed chocolate and cocoa sources.
Red wine and fava beans are good sources of both catechins and epicatechins. Fava beans do supply some of the other three types of catechins.
Consuming these foods on a regular basis may provide very profound health benefits. Try switching to green tea from coffee, enjoying a piece of dark chocolate from time to time, adding fava beans to your diet and always keeping your kitchen stocked with apples, pears, grapes and berries.
“Dietary catechins and cancer incidence among postmenopausal women. National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Netherlands. (Cancer Causes Control, May 2002). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12074507
“Dietary catechins in relation to coronary heart disease death among postmenopausal women.” National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Netherlands. (Epidemiology, 2001). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11679795
“Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men.” Health Care Products Research Laboratories, Tokyo. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2005) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640470
Heneman, Karrie and Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr. Catechins. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. pdf. file (https://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/online_resources/?blogtag=catechins&blogasset=26056, “The Nutrition and Health Info Sheet Catechins”)
Page, Linda. “Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition” (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
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