Regular consumption of black tea increases circulating kynurenine concentrations: a randomized controlled trial

J Gostner, kathrin becker, KD Croft, Richard Woodman, Ian Puddey, Dagmar Fuchs, Jonathan Hodgson

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Circulating neopterin and the ratio of kynurenine to tryptophan (KYN/TRP) concentrations are biomarkers of immune activation that have been linked to cardiovascular and total mortality. Several in vitro studies indicated that tea flavonoids and other antioxidants can modulate tryptophan breakdown rates and neopterin production in immune cells. We aimed to assess the effects of regular black tea consumption on tryptophan and neopterin metabolisms in vivo. Methods: Participants were healthy individuals, with no major illnesses and having normal to mildly elevated systolic blood pressure. They were randomly assigned to consume 3. cups/day of either powdered black tea solids (tea; n = 45) or a flavonoid-free caffeine-matched beverage (control; n = 49). Serum concentrations of tryptophan, kynurenine and neopterin were assessed at baseline and again at 3 and 6. months after daily ingestion of the respective beverage. Results: Regular consumption of tea over 6. months, compared to control, did not significantly alter neopterin (p = 0.13) or tryptophan (p = 0.85) concentrations, but did result in significantly higher kynurenine (p = 0.016) and KYN/TRP (p = 0.012). Relative to the control group, in the tea group kynurenine and KYN/TRP increased during the treatment period by 0.28. μmol/L (95% CI: - 0.04, 0.60) and 3.2. μmol/mmol (95% CI: - 1.6, 8.0), respectively at 3. months, and by 0.48. μmol/L (95% CI: 0.16, 0.80) and 7.5. μmol/mmol (95% CI: 2.5, 12.5), respectively at 6. months. Conclusions: Increased circulation of kynurenine and KYN/TRP following regular black tea consumption may indicate enhanced tryptophan breakdown, possibly due to immune activation-induced tryptophan degrading enzyme indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase. General significance: The influence of black tea consumption on biomarkers of immune system activation could relate to its general health benefits. Data suggests that the net effect strongly depends on the individual immune state, being stimulatory in healthy individuals, while acting more immune dampening in situations with an inflammatory background.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31-35
    Number of pages5
    JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta. Clinical
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015


    • Black tea
    • Cardiovascular health
    • Immune system
    • Kynurenine
    • Neopterin


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