Tea Polyphenols as Antioxidants
Antioxidants are defined by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) as substances, which may be applied in preserving food by retarding deterioration, rancidity or discolouration due to oxidation. Antioxidants inhibit oxidative processes by reacting with free radicals, through metal chelation, and by scavenging singlet oxygen. Antioxidant compounds in food play an important role as a health-protecting factor. Scientific evidence suggests that antioxidants reduce risk for chronic diseases including cancer and heart disease. Primary sources of naturally occurring antioxidants are whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Plant sourced food antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenes, phenolic acids, phytate and phytoestrogens have been recognized as having the potential to reduce disease risk. Most of the antioxidant compounds in a typical diet are derived from plant sources and belong to various classes of compounds with a wide variety of physical and chemical properties. Some compounds, such as gallates, have strong antioxidant activity, while others, such as the mono-phenols are weak antioxidants. The main characteristic of an antioxidant is its ability to trap free radicals. Highly reactive free radicals and oxygen species are present in biological systems from a wide variety of sources. These free radicals may oxidize nucleic acids, proteins, lipids or DNA and can initiate degenerative disease. Antioxidant compounds like phenolic acids, polyphenols and flavonoids scavenge free radicals such as peroxide, hydroperoxide or lipid peroxyl and thus inhibit the oxidative mechanisms that lead to degenerative diseases. There are a number of clinical studies suggesting that the antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, tea and red wine are the main factors for the observed efficacy of these foods in reducing the incidence of chronic diseases including heart disease and some cancers[1,2,3].