Guarana is considered to be a stimulant largely because of the caffeine content, but clinical trial research is suggesting some health benefits as well. Research conducted at the University of São Paulo Brazil, and first published in Food & Function, has concluded that guarana has ten times more of the antioxidant catechins that green tea does. Antioxidants inhibit cellular damage (oxidation). Consumption of catechins has long been associated with lowering heart disease and other inflammation in the human body. Catechins are widely available in foods, but are available in higher quantities inside guarana seeds. The health benefits of guarana have been well documented over the years. People who regularly consume guarana have shown a lower presence of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Guarana powder has also been used as a weight loss supplement.
Guarana Supplementation Reveals Surprising Results
Researchers studied the effects of guarana on 12 overweight, but otherwise healthy adults. They were looking for levels of oxidative stress (free radicals), plasma catechins (antioxidant), and the activity of erythrocyte enzymes in red blood cells. During a 15 day trial period participants were given 3 grams daily of guarana (in powder form from the seeds). They were instructed to mix the guarana with water, and drink the mixture at home before breakfast. Blood tests were taken before and after the trial period. Each dose of guarana contained the antioxidants catechin (90 milligrams) and epicatechin (60 milligrams).
The blood tests revealed a reduction in both LDL oxidation and DNA damage of cells in the lymphatic system. Researchers measured the activity of the enzymes catalase and glutathione peroxidase. Both these enzymes are critical in the defense against oxidative cell damage by free radicals. The activity of these enzymes proved to have a prolonged anti-oxidizing effect from the consumption of guarana extract, even after the blood was cleared of plasma catechins.
Guarana Drinks – Twice the Caffeine of Coffee
Guarana is a large plant, common along the Amazon in South America. It flowers and produces seeds, which contain 2 times more caffeine than coffee beans of the same weight. It’s the caffeine that makes this seed a good choice for making energy drinks, teas, and supplements. These drinks are popular in Brazil, but the caffeine source in guarana is making its way to energy drinks in North America.
One concern researchers had was with high caffeine in the doses of guarana. Many people are quite sensitive to caffeine side effects. Guarana doses have to be high in order for people to receive enough antioxidants in their bloodstream. For those people to get enough catechins & epicatechin in blood circulation, researchers are considering a decaffeinated supplement of guarana. Also considered, are larger doses with a slow release mechanism to deliver even higher levels of the beneficial antioxidants.
The Health Benefits of Antioxidants (Catechin & Epicatechin)
Antioxidants have been proven to counter free radicals at the molecular level. This effect helps to prevent cell DNA damage that contributes to premature aging, and disease. Catechins and Epicatechin are two main types of antioxidants found in guarana seeds. These two antioxidants are part of a large group of flavanols. They are plentiful in guarana seeds as well as teas from the plant Camellia sinensis, from which green tea is made. Sources of flavanols are in plant foods such as vegetables and fruits. Cocoa, dark chocolate, and wine also have these antioxidant compounds. In order for antioxidants to be effective, they have to be ingested and absorbed into the bloodstream. There they counter free radicals in the blood and surrounding tissues. These results suggest that the bioavailability of guarana catechins is equal to or greater than that of green tea, cocoa and chocolate catechins.
Although this study on guarana seeds was limited to only 12 participants, it contributes to the many studies already cited on the positive effects of antioxidants in preventing certain diseases. Compared to other sources of antioxidants, guarana may now be considered a rich and safe source of Catechin and Epicatechin flavanols.