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What do antioxidants do?

Tea is an ancient beverage recognized for its many health properties. Tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis evergreen shrub. Green, black and oolong tea are all derived from the same plant. The difference occurs in the steps following harvest. Green tea is lightly steamed or panfried, which inactivates an enzyme that causes oxidation of certain compounds, polyphenols, found in tea. Learn more about the natural properties of tea and tea-based beverages that will help you maintain good health. shutterstock_97459127


As the word suggests, antioxidants counter the process of oxidation. Antioxidants help fight the potentially harmful effects of unstable substances known as free radicals. Polyphenols are the specific group of compounds found in green tea that have been shown to have antioxidant activity in our body.


Free radicals are compounds formed during the body’s normal metabolic processes and through general wear and tear on the body’s cells. Imagine free radicals as rogue chemicals that roam inside the body, damaging cell walls and DNA. As the damages they cause increase, cells lose their ability to function properly. Infections, UV light, cigarette smoke, pollution and even exercise can all generate free radicals in our bodies.1 Continued free radical damage to our cells has been shown to lead to chronic diseases like certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. shutterstock_81799747


Antioxidants come to the rescue of healthy body cells by destroying some of the free radicals that would otherwise harm and damage our healthy cells. While our bodies make their own antioxidants, they also make use of antioxidants in the foods we eat. Dietary antioxidants, such as vitamin E, ß-carotene, selenium, and of course polyphenols like green tea polyphenols, all decrease the adverse effects caused by free radicals.


It is important to stay well hydrated – our bodies all need different amounts of water to maintain health, which depends on several factors including your age, sex, environment and physical activity level. Tea Cup Mild dehydration, which is considered a loss of 1-2% of your body weight, can considerably impair both cognitive ability and performance. Measures of cognitive function, such as fatigue, concentration, memory and alertness, have all been shown to be impaired in studies with mild dehydration. 2 Exercise performance has been shown in studies to be impaired at higher temperatures and at longer durations of exercise.3 When you exercise, it is important to replace the water you lose in sweat, in order to maintain your hydration status. One tip that can be applied for athletes and non-athletes alike is -don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water – thirst can be a sign that you may be dehydrated; keep water handy throughout the day. References: 1. Ferguson L et al. 2006. Oxidative damage and repair; significance and biomarkers. J Nutr. 136(10);2687S-2689S 2. Wilson MM, Morley JE. Impaired cognitive function and mental performance in mild dehydration. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57:S24-9. 3. Cheuvront SN, Carter III R, Sawka N. Fluid balance and endurance performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2003;2:202-8.