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White Tea and Green Tea – Powerful Antioxidants

“Better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one.” ~ Ancient Chinese Proverb

“Tea tempers the spirits and harmonizes the mind, dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue, awakens thought and prevents drowsiness, lightens or refreshes the body, and clears the perceptive faculties.” ~ Confucius

Green tea originated in China and most likely the first tea to reach European shores, although people gradually turned to black tea for daily consumption. Britain’s most famous cookery writer of the Victorian period, did not help the cause of green tea in the country when she wrote in her 1862 publication Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, “Strong green tea is highly pernicious (injurious or to cause insidious harm) and should never be taken of too freely”.

What Mrs. Beeton didn’t know was that tea contains, especially white tea and green tea, substances known as catechins polyphenols. Catechins have antioxidant properties, which means they protect the cells in the body from the effect of free radicals (unstable by-products of cell metabolism or exposure to toxins). Free radicals have been implicated in the formation of cancer cells, in the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol), which can lead to plaque formation and heart disease, and neurodegenerative disorders. One type of polyphenols, epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG), a particularly active member of a group of compounds called plant flavonoids, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals, is especially rich in white and green tea.

White tea and green tea are the least processed of all teas, with white tea undergoing the least of the two. Scientists have theorized that such minimal processing could leave white tea with higher concentrations of polyphenols.

The Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University is a world leader in the study of micronutrients and their role in promoting optimum health and preventing chronic disease. In 2008, encouraged by reports of cancer-fighting chemicals found in green tea, the institute conducted a study comparing white tea and green tea.

“Many of the more potent tea polyphenols become oxidized or destroyed as green tea is further processed into oolong and black teas,” said Dr. Roderick H. Dashwood, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at the university, and Principal Investigator with the institute. “Our theory was that white tea might have equivalent or higher levels of these polyphenols than green tea, and thus be more beneficial.”

The study results, published in the Nutrition and Cancer periodical, showed that white tea was more effective than green tea in inhibiting cancer cell proliferation and may have more potential to prevent cancer than green tea. “In one test, the white tea was five more times effective. In another, it was just twice as potent, said Gilbert Santana-Rios, Ph.D.

“People should drink white tea,” said Microbiologist Milton Schiffenbauer – Pace University New York – who conducted the study. “Our research shows white tea extract can actually destroy in vitro (in glass/in a controlled environment) the organisms that cause disease. If we can stimulate the immune system at the same time we are destroying the organisms then it makes sense to drink more tea.”

“Tea is beating all scientific expectations as the most potent health beverage ever,” says researcher John Weisburger at the American Health Foundation. “The many ways tea can promote health is truly astonishing.”