With Spring temperatures rising and Summer holidays coming, tea rapidly becomes ice-tea on a sunny terrace or sports field. Like red wine, tea is commonly associated with health for its flavanols content. The difference between the two drinks being that tea contains only the single flavanols ‒ commonly known as catechins ‒ while red wine also contains clusters of flavanols named proanthocyanidins.
Black Tea no health effect
The difference exists not only between tea and wine, but also between tea and tea. Black tea is produced by fermenting the leaves of the tea plant. This process destroys the flavanols and other active substances. Black tea – whether as tea or as a component in ice-tea ‒ may be consumed for its taste and flavours, but it doesn’t help much in terms of health. In December 2017, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected a health claim application submitted by Unilever for black tea. According to Unilever, black tea exerts a beneficial effect on vascular health. EFSA was not able to establish the claimed effect and rejected the claim. ([i])
Green tea and liver toxicity
In unfermented or green tea, the flavanols are left intact, which is why green tea and green tea extracts are widely recommended and consumed for their health effects. However, green tea has been associated with liver damage. The catechins in green tea do indeed display a certain level of toxicity. This is not a concern for those who don’t drink excessive amounts of green tea, but the toxicity of catechins should not be completely neglected. In 1967, the German scientists Reimann, Lorenz and co-workers established that catechins could prevent stomach ulcers. Still, their findings never resulted in a finished catechin-product because the advantage of catechins’ inhibition of ulcer formation is compromised by the fact that they might burden the liver.
Green tea supplements
In December 2017, the EFSA published an Opinion about the safety of green tea catechins. ([ii]) EFSA concluded that a regular cup of green tea, prepared in a traditional way, is generally considered to be safe. “However,” according to EFSA, “rare cases of liver injury have been reported after consumption of green tea infusions, most probably due to an idiosyncratic reaction.” EFSA also concluded that there is evidence from interventional clinical trials that intake of doses equal or above 800 mg catechins per day taken as a food supplement has been shown to induce a statistically significant risk of liver toxicity. The 800 mg per day dosage is rather excessive, but could be reached by “high level consumers” who take green tea supplements in order, for instance, to lose weight.
Catechins in Masquelier’s OPCs
What about the relatively smaller quantities of catechins we find in Masquelier’s Vitis vinifera and Pinus maritima compounds ? Are they potentially toxic ? Might they burden the liver? In all the toxicity tests performed with Masquelier’s extracts, there was never any sign or indication that the catechins in these products caused any toxicity. For some reason, when present in the natural ratio in which they coexist with OPCs in the living plant, catechins do not show any toxicity, and they attain their optimum biological efficacy. Therefore, catechins need not be eliminated from these compounds.
The French Paradox and green tea
Green tea drinkers, such as the Japanese, rank first in cardiovascular health. They are followed by red wine drinkers, such as the French. What both drinks have in common is their catechin content. Does this make OPCs irrelevant ? Certainly not. The French paradox explains that when you look at the average dinner table fare in France, you would not expect the French to score so well on the cardiovascular scale. Sausages, butter, foie gras, ham, bacon, paté, mayonnaise, meat, cheese, sweetbread, eggs, and fried potatoes are common savoury elements in the French diet.
To be sure, in the southern parts of France people eat what is commonly called the Mediterranean diet, known for its fresh salads and vegetable oils. And many French people do take good care of their health. However, statistically speaking the French are saved by their elegant paradox that permits them to overcome the consequences of eating so much of what they like by drinking so much of what most of us like.
This paradox does not exist in Japan in that the consumption of green tea catechins would have to compensate an unhealthy diet. In the traditional Japanese diet, there isn’t much to compensate for. The Japanese tables are filled with fish and seafood, both containing lots of omega-3 fatty acids, rice, and raw vegetables. Under such favourable dietary conditions, the catechins, although weaker than OPCs, are capable of tipping an already balanced scale.
The safest side of safety
So, to be on the safest side of safety, and to enjoy unencumbered the health effects of catechins, Masquelier’s OPCs may be the best option in terms of reaching the highest and the safest rank of the cardiovascular health scale. In combination with the OPCs that naturally accompany these catechins, they may be the best option to deal with the vicissitudes of our Western lifestyle.