Numerous epidemiological and interventional clinical studies have consistently reported that black tea is good for human health. The polyphenolic compound, theaflavin, and its galloyl esters (theaflavins) are the primary red pigments in black tea that possess several health benefits, including fat-reducing and glucose-lowering capabilities and lifestyle-related disease prevention related to anti-obesity, anticancer, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-osteoporotic, and anti-dental caries properties. These compounds are produced by key enzymes, such as polyphenol oxidase and peroxidase, from parent green tea catechins present in fresh green tea leaves during the production of black tea leaves or the fermentation of green tea. However, theaflavins are only present in low concentrations in black tea; thus, their extraction from black tea leaves at sufficient levels for use in medical studies has been difficult. To circumvent this issue, different procedures for the synthesis of theaflavins using chemical oxidizing reagents or enzymes have been studied; however, low yields have limited their utility. Recently, however, several biosynthetic methods have been developed for the mass production of theaflavins. Using these methods, the physiological functions of theaflavins in lifestyle-related diseases in mice and humans have also been studied. In this review, we present the synthesis of theaflavins and their health benefits.
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