AskDefine | Define catechin

Extensive Definition

Catechins are polyphenolic antioxidant plant metabolites. They belong to the family of flavonoids and, to be more specific, flavan-3-ols. These compounds are abundant in teas derived from the tea-plant Camellia sinensis as well as in some cocoas and chocolates (made from the seeds of Theobroma cacao).

Catechin, epicatechin, gallocatechin, epigallocatechin, and the gallates

Catechin and epicatechin are epimers, with (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin being the most common optical isomers found in nature. Catechin was first isolated from the plant extract catechu, from which it derives its name. Heating catechin past its point of decomposition releases pyrocatechol, which explains the common origin of the names of these compounds.
Epigallocatechin and gallocatechin contain an additional phenolic hydroxyl group when compared to epicatechin and catechin, respectively, similar to the difference in pyrogallol compared to pyrocatechol.
Catechin gallates are gallic acid esters of the catechins; such as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is commonly the most abundant catechin in tea.

Sources of catechins

Catechins constitute about 25% of the dry weight of fresh tea leaf, although total catechin content varies widely depending on clonal variation, growing location, seasonal/ light variation, and altitude. They are present in nearly all teas made from Camellia sinensis, including white tea, green tea, black tea and Oolong tea.
Catechins are also present in the human diet in chocolate, fruits, vegetables and wine and are found in many other plant species.
Epigallocatechin_gallate is the most abundant catechin in tea.

Health benefits of catechins

The health benefits of catechins have been studied extensively in humans and in animal models. Reduction in atherosclerotic plaques was seen in animal models. Reduction in carcinogenesis was seen in vitro.
Many studies on health benefits have been linked to the catechin content. According to Norman Hollenberg, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, epicatechin can reduce the risk of four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes. He studied the Kuna people in Panama, who drink up to 40 cups of cocoa a week, and found that the prevalence of the "big four" is less than 10%. He believes that epicatechin should be considered essential to the diet and thus classed as a vitamin.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6430777.stmScience Daily March 12, 2007
According to one researcher epigallocatechin-3-gallate is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from UV radiation-induced damage and tumor formation.
Green tea catechins have also been shown to possess antibiotic properties due to their role in disrupting a specific stage of the bacterial DNA replication process. White tea typically contains higher level of catechins.
Catechins, when combined with habitual exercise, have been shown to delay some forms of aging. Mice fed catechins showed decreased levels of aging. Oxidative stress was lowered in cell mitochondria, as well as increase in mRNA transcription of mitochondria related proteins.

References

catechin in German: Catechin
catechin in French: Catéchine
catechin in Dutch: Catechine
catechin in Japanese: カテキン
catechin in Russian: Катехины
catechin in Chinese: 儿茶素
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