Skip to main content

Lignan and isoflavonoid concentrations in tea and coffee

  • W. M. Mazur (a1), K. Wähälä (a2), S. Rasku (a2), A. Salakka (a2), T. Hase (a2) and H. Adlercreutz (a1)...

Tea is a beverage consumed widely throughout the world. The existence in tea of chemopreventing compounds possessing antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic and antioxidative properties has been reported. High intakes of tea and foods containing flavonoids have recently been shown to be negatively correlated to the occurrence of CHD. However, tea may contain other compounds with similar activities. Using a new gas chromatographic–mass spectrometric method we measured lignans and isoflavonoids in samples of twenty commercial teas (black, green and red varieties) and, for comparison, six coffees. Both unbrewed and brewed tea were investigated. The analysis of the teas yielded relatively high levels of the lignans secoisolariciresinol (5.6–28.9 mg/kg; 15.9–81.9 μmol/kg) and matairesinol (0.56–4.13 mg/kg; 1.6–11.5 μmol/kg) but only low levels of isoflavonoids. Because the plant lignans, as well as their mammalian metabolites enterolactone and enterodiol, have antioxidative properties and these mammalian lignans occur in high concentrations in plasma, we hypothesize that lignan polyphenols may contribute to the protective effect of tea on CHD.

    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Lignan and isoflavonoid concentrations in tea and coffee
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Lignan and isoflavonoid concentrations in tea and coffee
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Lignan and isoflavonoid concentrations in tea and coffee
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Corresponding author:Professor Herman Adlercreutz, fax +358 9 615 85 633; email
Hide All
Adlercreutz H (1990) Western diet and Western diseases: some hormonal and biochemical mechanisms and associations. Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation 50, Suppl. 201, 323.
Adlercreutz H, Carson M, Palotie A, Booms S, Loukovaara M, Mäkelä T, Wähälä K, Brunow G & Hase T (1993 a) Lignans and isoflavonoids of dietary origin and hormone-dependent cancer. In Food and Cancer Prevention: Chemical and Biological Aspects, pp. 349352 [Waldron Johnson KW IT, Fenwick GR, editors]. Cambridge: The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Adlercreutz H, Fotsis T, Bannwart C, Wähälä K, Brunow G & Hase T (1991) Isotope dilution gas chromatographic–mass spectrometric method for the determination of lignans and isoflavonoids in human urine, including identification of genistein. Clinica Chimica Acta 199, 263278.
Adlercreutz H, Fotsis T, Heikkinen R, Dwyer JT, Woods M, Goldin BR & Gorbach SL (1982) Excretion of the lignans enterolactone and enterodiol and of equol in omnivorous and vegetarian women and in women with breast cancer. Lancet 2, 12951299.
Adlercreutz H, Markkanen H & Watanabe S (1993 b) Plasma concentrations of phyto-oestrogens in Japanese men. Lancet 342, 12091210.
Adlercreutz H & Mazur W (1997) Phytoestrogens and Western diseases (review). Annals of Medicine 29, 95120.
Ayres DC & Loike JD (1990) Lignans. Chemical, Biological and Clinical Properties. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brown CA, Bolton-Smith C, Woodward M & Tunstall-Pedoe H (1993) Coffee and tea consumption and the prevalence of coronary heart disease in men and women: results from the Scottish heart study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 47, 171175.
Clarkson TB, Anthony MS & Hughes CL (1995) Estrogenic soybean isoflavones and chronic disease – risks and benefits. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 6, 1116.
Fauré M, Lissi E, Torres R & Videla LA (1990) Antioxidant activities of lignans and flavonoids. Phytochemistry 29, 37733775.
Finlay EMH, Wilson DW, Adlercreutz H & Griffiths K (1991) The identification and measurement of ‘phyto-oestrogens’ in human saliva, plasma, breast aspirate or cyst fluid, and prostatic fluid using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Journal of Endocrinology 129, Suppl., 49 Abstr.
Fotsis T & Adlercreutz H (1987) The multicomponent analysis of estrogens in urine by ion exchange chromatography and GC-MS-I. Quantitation of estrogens after initial hydrolysis of conjugates. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry 28, 203213.
Gao YT, Mclaughlin JK, Blot WJ, Ji BT, Dai Q & Fraumeni JF (1994) Reduced risk of esophageal cancer associated with green tea consumption. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 86, 855858.
Goldbohm RA, Hertog MGL, Brants HAM, van Poppel G & van den Brandt PA (1996) Consumption of black tea and cancer risk: a prospective cohort study. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 88, 93100.
Graham HN (1992) Green tea composition, consumption, and polyphenol chemistry. Preventive Medicine 21, 334350.
Green MS & Harari G (1992) Association of serum lipoproteins and health-related habits with coffee and tea consumption in free-living subjects examined in the Israeli CORDIS study. Preventive Medicine 21, 532545.
Gugler R, Leschik M & Dengler HJ (1975) Disposition of quercetin in man after single oral and intravenous doses. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 9, 229234.
Heilbrun LK, Nomura A & Stemmermann GN (1986) Black tea consumption and cancer risk: a prospective study. British Journal of Cancer 54, 677683.
Hertog MGL, Feskens EJM, Hollman PCH, Katan MB & Kromhout D (1993 a) Dietary antioxidant flavonoids and risk of coronary heart disease – the Zutphen elderly study. Lancet 342, 10071011.
Hertog MGL, Hollman PCH & Vandeputte B (1993 b) Content of potentially anticarcinogenic flavonoids of tea infusions, wines, and fruit juices. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 41, 12421246.
Hirose M, Hoshiya T, Akagi K, Takahashi S, Hara Y & Ito N (1993) Effects of green tea catechins in a rat multi-organ carcinogenesis model. Carcinogenesis 14, 15491553.
Ho C-T, Chen Q, Shi H, Zhang K-Q & Rosen RT (1992) Antioxidative effect of polyphenol extract prepared from various Chinese teas. Preventive Medicine 21, 520525.
Hollman PCH, Devries JHM, Vanleeuwen SD, Mengelers MJB & Katan MB (1995) Absorption of dietary quercetin glycosides and quercetin in healthy ileostomy volunteers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 62, 12761282.
Hollman PCH, Gaag MVD, Mengelers MJB, Trijp JMP, de Vries JHM & Katan MB (1996) Absorption and disposition kinetics of the dietary antioxidant quercetin in man. Free Radical Biology and Medicine 21, 703707.
Horvat RJ & Senter SD (1980) A gas-liquid chromatographic method for analysis of phenolic acids in plants. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 28, 12921295.
Hu GZ, Han C & Chen J (1995) Inhibition of oncogene expression by green tea and (–)-epigallocatechin gallate in mice. Nutrition and Cancer 24, 203209.
Imai K & Nakachi K (1995) Cross sectional study of effects of drinking green tea on cardiovascular and liver diseases. British Medical Journal 310, 693696.
Jain AK, Shimoi K, Nakamura Y, Kada T, Hara Y & Tomita I (1989) Crude tea extracts decrease the mutagenic activity of N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine in vitro and in intragastric tract of rats. Mutation Research 210, 18.
Jordan VC, Koch R & Bain RR (1985) Prolactin synthesis by cultured rat pituitary cells: an assay to study estrogens, antiestrogens and their metabolites in vitro. In Estrogens and the Environment II. Influences and Development, pp. 221234 [McLachlan JA, editor]. New York: Elsevier.
Katiyar SK, Agarwal R, Wang ZY, Bhatia AK & Mukhtar H (1992) (–)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate in Camellia sinensis leaves from Himalayan region of Sikkim: inhibitory effects against biochemical events and tumor initiation in Sencar mouse skin. Nutrition and Cancer 18, 7383.
Katiyar SK & Mukhtar H (1996) Tea in chemoprevention of cancer: epidemiologic and experimental studies (review). International Journal of Oncology 8, 221238.
Kinlen LJ, Willows AN, Goldblatt P & Yudkin J (1988) Tea consumption and cancer. British Journal of Cancer 58, 397401.
Klaunig, JE (1992) Chemopreventive effects of green tea components on hepatic carcinogenesis. Preventive Medicine 21, 510519.
Kohlmeier L, Weterings KGC, Steck S & Kok FJ (1997) Tea and cancer prevention: an evaluation of the epidemiologic literature. Nutrition and Cancer 27, 113.
Kono S (1992) Green tea and colon cancer. Japanese Journal of Cancer Research 83, 669.
La Vecchia C, Negri E, Franceschi S, Davanzo B & Boyle P (1992) Tea consumption and cancer risk. Nutrition and Cancer 17, 2731.
Lee M-J, Wang Z-Y, Li H, Chen L, Sun Y, Gobbo S, Balentine DA & Yang CS (1995) Analysis of plasma and urinary tea polyphenols in human subjects. Cancer Epidemiology, Bio-markers and Prevention 4, 393399.
Mazur W, Fotsis T, Wähälä K, Ojala S, Salakka A & Adlercreutz H (1996) Isotope dilution gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric method for the determination of isoflavonoids, coumestrol, and lignans in food samples. Analytical Biochemistry 233, 169180.
Morton MS, Matosferreira A, Abranchesmonteiro L, Correia R, Blacklock N, Chan PSF, Cheng C, Lloyd S, Chiehping W & Griffiths K (1997) Measurement and metabolism of isoflavo- noids and lignans in the human male. Cancer Letters 114, 145151.
Mousavi Y & Adlercreutz H (1992) Enterolactone and estradiol inhibit each other's proliferative effect on MCF-7 breast cancer cells in culture. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 41, 615619.
Mukhtar H, Wang ZY, Katiyar SK & Agarwal R (1992) Tea components: antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effects. Preventive Medicine 21, 351360.
Myara I, Pico I, Vedie B & Moatti N (1993) A method to screen for the antioxidant effect of compounds on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – illustration with flavonoids. Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods 30, 6973.
Nagao M, Morita N, Yahagi T, Shimizu M, Kuroyanagi M, Fukuoka, M, Yoshihira, K, Natori, S, Fujino, T & Sugimura, T (1981) Mutagenicities of 61 flavonoids and 11 related compounds. Environmental Mutagenesis 3, 401419.
Nagao M, Takahashi Y, Yamanaka H & Sugimur T (1979) Mutagens in coffee and tea. Mutation Research 68, 101106.
Nanjo F, Honda M, Okishio K, Matsumoto N, Ishigaki F, Ishigami T & Hara Y (1993) Effects of dietary tea catechins on alpha-tocopherol levels, lipid peroxidation, and erythrocyte deformability in rats fed on high palm oil and perilla oil diets. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 16, 11561159.
Paganga G & Rice-Evans CA (1997) The identification of flavonoids as glycosides in human plasma. FEBS Letters 401, 7882.
Sano M, Takahashi Y, Yoshino K, Shimoi K, Nakamura Y, Tomita I, Oguni I & Konomoto H (1995) Effect of tea (Camellia sinensis 1) on lipid peroxidation in rat liver and kidney: a comparison of green and black tea feeding. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 18, 10061008.
Setchell KDR, Lawson A M, Borriello SP, Harkness R, Gordon H, Morgan DML, Kirk DN, Adlercreutz H, Anderson LC & Axelson M (1981) Lignan formation in man – microbial involvement and possible roles in relation to cancer. Lancet 2, 47.
Stehle G, Hinohara S, Cremer P, Feng Z, Bernhardt R, Goto Y, Seidel D, Heene DL & Schettler G (1991) Differences in the risk factor patterns for coronary heart disease in China, Japan, and Germany. Klinische Wochenschrift 69, 629632.
Stensvold I, Tverdal A, Solvoll K & Foss OP (1992) Tea consumption. Relationship to cholesterol, blood pressure, and coronary and total mortality. Preventive Medicine 21, 546553.
Stich HF (1991) The beneficial and hazardous effects of simple phenolic compounds. Mutation Research 259, 307324.
Stich HF (1992) Teas and tea components as inhibitors of carcinogen formation in model systems and man. Preventive Medicine 21, 377384.
Vinson JA, Dabbagh YA, Serry MM & Jang JH (1995) Plant flavonoids, especially tea flavonols, are powerful antioxidants using an in vitro oxidation model for heart disease. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 43, 28002802.
Wang ZY, Agarwal R, Khan WA & Mukhtar H (1992) Protection against benzo[a]pyrene- and N-nitrososdiethylamine-induced lung and forestomach tumorigenesis in A/J mice by water extracts of green tea and licorice. Carcinogenesis 13, 14911494.
Wang ZY, Cheng SJ, Zhou ZC, Athar M, Khan WA, Bickers DR & Mukhtar A (1989) Antimutagenic activity of green tea polyphenols. Mutation Research 223, 273285.
Wang ZY, Huang MT, Lou YR, Xie JG, Reuhl KR, Newmark HL, Ho CT, Yang CS & Conney AH (1994) Inhibitory effects of black tea, green tea, decaffeinated black tea, and decaffeinated green tea on ultraviolet b light-induced skin carcinogenesis in 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-initiated SKH-1 mice. Cancer Research 54, 34283435.
Waters AP & Knowler JT (1982) Effect of a lignan (HPMF) on RNA synthesis in the rat uterus. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 66, 379381.
Welshons WV, Murphy CS, Koch R, Calaf G & Jordan VC (1987) Stimulation of breast cancer cells in vitro by the environmental estrogen enterolactone and the phytoestrogen equol. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 10, 169175.
Yoshino K, Hara Y, Sano M & Tomita I (1994) Antioxidative effects of black tea theaflavins and thearubigin on lipid peroxidation of rat liver homogenates induced by tert-butyl hydroperoxide. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 17, 146149.
Young W, Hotovec RL & Romero AG (1967) Tea and atherosclerosis. Nature 216, 10151016.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 131 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 207 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.