Antioxidants in Tea: The Mystery Revealed

Although there are inconsistencies to the many and varied claims of the health benefits of tea – Green Tea in particular – one benefit that all can agree on is that tea contains high levels of anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants offer protection against free radicals, but what are they and how do they interact to keep us healthy?

Meet the Players

The Enemy:  A free radical is an atom or molecule that has an unpaired electron in one of its orbits. An atom consists of a nucleus around which pairs of negatively-charged electrons circulate in one or more orbits. If one of these electrons should be lost, either by aging, illness, or environmental factors, the atom becomes extremely unstable. This is what is called a free radical. Such a free radical is then likely to link up with any other atom floating around that has an electron to spare, creating a potentially unhealthy or dangerous union – a characteristic it shares with political radicals who may also form undesirable associations.

A diagram of an atom, showing that one of the electron-pairs has lost a member converting it into a highly-reactive free radical

The Hero: Anti-oxidants to the rescue! An anti-oxidant is a molecule that also has an electron to spare, but when it hooks up with a free radical it forms a compound that is benign. So if we drink lots of green tea we will have lots of anti-oxidants with their extra electrons, and hopefully these will be able to attach themselves to our free radicals before those radicals form liaisons with less-desirable company.

Of course, the real health benefit of green tea is this: if you are drinking green tea you are not drinking rum-and-coke, a sixth cup of coffee, or a jug of chocolate milk.

Related posts:
  1. World Tea Expo 2011: Day 3
  2. Gifts for the Discerning Tea Lover
  3. Tea, Stories and Food Pairing
  4. Live From World Tea Expo 2012: Friday June 1st
  5. Traditionals: Fragrance Enhanced Tea OSMANTHUS



About the author

More posts by | Visit the site of Gerald Robinson



  • flockofteacosy

    Great post — finally, a clear explanation ;) Thanks!

  • Hans

    Hi Linda,
    green tee, indeed, is rich on antioxidants, namely catechins. But according to the Linus Pauling Institute these catechins are rather useless as antioxidants due to their low bioavailability in the human body (approximately only 2% per intake). But on the other hand it`s getting more and more clear, that catechins resp. flavonoids in general modulate so-called cell signal-pathways. Results of lab experiments suggest that flavonoids inhibit cell-signaling enzymes, the kinases; and an increased kinases activitity is obviously needed at the beginning of some chronic diseases. For that, by changing cell-signals, flavonoids might help prevent diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as the results indicate. Might help!

    For more information see: “Controversy: What
    are the True Biological Functions of Superfruit Antioxidants?” 2009-04-01
    - Balz Frei, PhD, Director, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University,
    Corvallis, OR; see also: “Flavonoids: antioxidants or signalling molecules?”
    Williams RJ, Spencer JP, Rice-Evans C. Free Radic Biol Med. 2004; 36:838-849


    Tea Campaign Canada