Tea polyphenols, e.g., (-)-epigallocatechin-3-O-(3-O-methyl gallate (EGCG3"Me), (-)-epigallocatechin-3-O-gallate (EGCG), (-)-epigallocatechin (EGC), (-)-epicatechin-3-O-gallate (ECG), and (-)-epicatechin (EC), are believed to be responsible for the beneficial effects of tea. 'Benifuuki', a tea (Camellia sinensis L.) cultivar grown in Japan, is rich in the anti-allergic molecule epigallocatechin-3-O-(3-O-methyl) gallate (EGCG3"Me). Pulverized Benifuuki green tea powder (BGP) is more widely distributed than leaf tea in Japan. Japanese people mix their pulverized tea with water directly, whereas it is common to drink leaf tea after extraction. However, few studies of the effects of BGP particle size on polyphenol bioavailability have been performed. This study was conducted to investigate the absorption of catechins in rats after the intragastric administration of Benifuuki green tea. Therefore, we assessed the plasma concentrations of catechins following the ingestion of BGP with different mean particle sizes (2.86, 18.6, and 76.1 μm) or Benifuuki green tea infusion (BGI) as a control in rats. The bioavailabilities of EGCG3"Me, EGCG, ECG, EGC, and EC were analyzed after the oral administration of a single dose of Benifuuki green tea (125 mg/rat) to rats. The plasma concentrations of tea catechins were determined by HPLC analysis combined with of electrochemical detection (ECD) using a coulometric array. The AUC (area under the drug concentration versus time curve; min μg/mL) of ester-type catechins (EGCG3"Me, EGCG, and ECG) for the BGP 2.86 μm were significantly higher than those in the infusion and 18.6 and 76.1 μm BGP groups, but the AUC of free-type catechins (EGC and EC) showed no differences between these groups. Regarding the peak plasma level of EGCG3"Me adjusted for intake, BGP 2.86 μm and BGI showed higher values than the BGP 18.6 and 76.1 μm groups, and the peak plasma levels of the other catechins displayed the same tendency. The present study demonstrates that the bioavailability of ester-type catechins (EGCG and ECG) can be improved by reducing the particle size of green tea, but the plasma level of EGCG3"Me in the BGI group was similar to that in the BGP 2.86 μm group. This result suggests that drinking Benifuuki green tea with a particle size of around 2 μm would deliver the anti-allergic EGCG3"Me and the anti-oxidant EGCG efficiently.
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