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Purified black tea theaflavins and theaflavins/catechin supplements did not affect serum lipids in healthy individuals with mildly to moderately elevated cholesterol concentrations



Ingestion of tea flavonoids found in both green and black tea is linked to cardiovascular health benefits such as lowering serum lipids. Evidence for a cholesterol-lowering benefit of green or black tea consumption from human intervention studies is, however, conflicting and active components responsible for the effect have not yet been clearly identified.

Aim of the study

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design study the effects of ingesting a purified black tea theaflavins (TFs) powder alone or in combination with catechin (TFs/catechins) on lowering serum total (TC) and LDL-cholesterol (LDL-c) were assessed.


In total, 102 mildly to moderately hypercholesterolemic (TC and LDL-c: 5.70 ± 0.74 and 3.97 ± 0.61 mmol/L, respectively) subjects (67 men and 35 women) were randomly assigned to consume once daily one capsule of one of the 3 treatments: TFs (providing 77.5 mg), TFs/catechins (providing 75.0 mg TFs plus 150.0 mg catechins and 195.0 mg of other polyphenols), or placebo (cellulose).


Serum TC and LDL-c concentrations did not differ significantly among the 3 treatments as assessed at 4, 8, and 11 weeks using analysis of covariance (p = 0.1187 and p = 0.1063, respectively). Although changes over time from baseline to week 11 were significant for TC and LDL-c (p = 0.0311 and p = 0.0269, respectively), this decrease over time was seen in the TFs and placebo groups.


In this human intervention study, no statistically significant LDL-c lowering effect was seen with either TFs alone or the TFs/catechins combination as compared to placebo. Based on these findings it cannot be concluded that tea flavonoids such as theaflavins and catechins are responsible for a putative cholesterol-lowering effect of black tea, at least not with the daily dose applied in the present study.

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The authors like to thank Dr. Yi-Cai Fu for his help in the identification of the clinical study site, Dr. Wei-Li Li for his role as company physician, Yong-Shi Bu for helping with capsule preparation, and Mario Vermeer for critical comments on the manuscript.

Conflict of interest statement

All authors are employed by Unilever Foods, The Netherlands or China.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elke A. Trautwein.

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Trautwein, E.A., Du, Y., Meynen, E. et al. Purified black tea theaflavins and theaflavins/catechin supplements did not affect serum lipids in healthy individuals with mildly to moderately elevated cholesterol concentrations. Eur J Nutr 49, 27–35 (2010).

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  • Black tea
  • Theaflavins
  • Catechin
  • Cholesterol-lowering
  • Healthy individual