Catechins and theaflavins, polyphenolic compounds derived from tea (Camellia sinensis, fam. Theaceae), have been reported to have a wide range of biological activities including prevention of tooth decay and oral cancer. The present study was undertaken to determine the usefulness of green tea leaves and black tea extract for the delivery of catechins and theaflavins to the oral cavity. After holding either green tea leaves (2 g) or brewed black tea (2 g of black tea leaves in 100 mi) in the mouth for 2-5 min and thoroughly rinsing the mouth, high concentrations of catechins (Cmax = 131.0-2.2 μM) and theaflavins (Cmax = 1.8-0.6 μM) were observed in saliva in the 1st hour. Whereas there was significant interindividual variation in the peak levels of catechins and theaflavins, the overall kinetic profile was similar, with t1/2 = 25-44 min and 49-76 min for catechins and theaflavins, respectively (average coefficient of variation in t1/2 was 23.4%). In addition to the parent catechin and theaflavin peaks, five unidentified peaks were also observed in saliva after black tea treatment. Hydrolysis of theaflavin gallates, apparently by salivary esterases, was observed in vitro and in vivo. These results indicate that tea leaves can be used as a convenient, slow-release source of catechins and theaflavins and provide information for the possible use of tea in the prevention of oral cancer and dental caries.
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