Catechins and their gallate esters are a class of polyphenolic compounds. The catechin subclass known as flavan-3-ols have recently attracted much attention with regards to their beneficial effect on human health. Their biological actions are dependent on the structure of the compounds and vary according to cell type. They are best known as powerful antioxidants; however depending on the doses they also exhibit prooxidant effects. The anti- or prooxidant effects of green tea catechins have been implicated in the modulation of several cellular functions often associated with strong chemoprotective properties. This review summarizes the benefit catechins to human health, the main molecular pathways modulated by catechins. The relationship between the structure and activity of the catechins needs to be studied further. In the future, the structure of catechins could e modified so as to synthesize novel compounds with more specific beneficial properties and higher bioavailability.