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Teas, Cocoa and Coffee: Plant Secondary Metabolites and Health

Teas, Cocoa and Coffee: Plant Secondary Metabolites and Health by Alan Crozier, Hiroshi Ashihara, and Francisco Tomas-Barberan (eds). West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012. Hardcover; 252 pages. ISBN: 978-1-4443-3441-8. $144.99.

This excellent text on the health benefits of 3 widely popular foods—tea-, coffee-, and cocoa-derived natural products—covers a range of current topics of interest and focuses on the properties of the plants’ dominant components including purines (primarily caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline), phenolic acids, and flavanols/polyphenols. The book also provides comprehensive background information on bioavailability and the effects of these classes of phytochemicals on human health. Secondary metabolites, as these chemicals are known, are not essential for the existence of the individual or species, but often play a key role in its successful survival over others.

Teas, Cocoa and Coffee consists of 8 chapters written by 16 prominent researchers from 4 countries and includes discussions of the origins and history of each of the 3 ingredients. Additional chapters examine the chemical constituents of each of these popular plants and include wide-ranging details on their bioavailability and thorough coverage of human health effects.

As an example, Chapter 6, “Coffee and Health,” summarizes hundreds of epidemiological studies on coffee consumption and its beneficial effects on type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and various cancers. The chapter also includes a discussion of inflammation effects and the antioxidant statuses of certain components of coffee.

Another fine example of the book’s detailed coverage is Chapter 4,“Teas, Tisanes and Health,” which summarizes the published clinical trials of various commercialized teas (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae), including black, green, and oolong, plus the popular herbal teas yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis, Aquifoliaceae), chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Asteraceae), hibiscus (Hibiscus spp., Malvaceae), and rooibos (Aspalathus linearis, Fabaceae). The clinical data on C. sinensis consumption and observed beneficial effects on cardiovascular health are compelling.

These fields of preclinical and clinical research are advancing rapidly, and the materials covered by this text provide a comprehensive profile of the health effects of these 3 plants. This book should be considered for inclusion in the library of all researchers with an interest in natural products chemistry in general, as well as those with an interest in biochemistry, nutrition, or food science. For researchers with a particular interest in the phytochemistry, biochemistry, human health applications, nutrition, or bioavailability/absorption of teas, cocoa, or coffee, this monograph is a required desk reference. Additionally, this text should be included in all college and university science and medical libraries, as there are no comparable up-to-date treatises on the health benefits, composition, and bioavailability of teas, coffee, and cocoa.

–Michael S. Tempesta, PhDManaging Partner Phenolics, LLC El Granada, CA