White tea, the youngest leaves
Just as in green, black and oolong tea, white tea is from the plant Camellia sinensis. New growth buds and young leaves are plucked before they are fully open and it is the silver hairs on the new buds that give the young leaves a white appearance. As white tea is left to wither naturally and then dried after it has been plucked, the removal of any real processing is believed to yield the high antioxidant health benefits associated with white tea identified in recent studies. Referenced studies are listed below.
Lowest in caffeine, highest in antioxidants
White tea has the lowest caffeine level of all the types of tea with an average cup containing around 15mg of caffeine compared to 20mg in green tea and 40mg in black. As there is hardly any processing, white tea retains high levels of antioxidants, catechins, present in the fresh tea leaves. There are fewer studies evaluating the health benefits of white tea, but it is not surprising that completed studies are demonstrating the higher levels of polyphenols have a greater impact than green, black or oolong tea.
White tea and weight loss
As ever 'weight loss' is a very topical subject and of course any evidence surrounding the ability to influence weight loss is always of interest (mmm...well it is for us in the Jenier Tea House!). A recent study published in April 2009 saw scientists looking at the biological effects of an extract of white tea on human fat cells. The results, published in BioMed Central Journal Nutrition and Metabolism show that white tea extract effectively stops the generation of new human fat cells and stimulates the breakdown of fats from existing fat cells. This basically means that white tea increases metabolism and burns body fat. Experts agree the idea should not be to 'lose weight' as such but to burn excess body fat and increase muscle using a combination of regular healthy eating, weights and exercise. As part of your healthy lifestyle, white tea can be a welcome addition to help you to burn fat.
White tea and cancer
A study conducted in 2001 by Oregon State University looked at the comparison between white tea and green tea in relation to their ability to reduce the risk of cancer. When cell cultures were exposed to a carcinogen (a substance known to cause cells to mutate and become cancerous)and then either white tea or green tea were added, scientists discovered that white tea was always more protective than green tea, sometimes 5 times as much. In a separate study evaluating the preventive effects of white tea on colon cancer in mice, it was found that white tea when combined with an anti-cancer drug gave the greatest protection.
Other health benefits of white tea
Research is continuing and new studies are released regularly, however the following health benefits have been attributed to white tea:
- slows the growth of bacteria that cause infections
- helps fight fungi so may assist with yeast infections.
- boosts the immune system
- may slow down aging skin conditions
Orner GA, Dashwood WM, Blum CA, Díaz GD, Li Q, Dashwood RH (2003). Suppression of tumorigenesis in the Apc(min) mouse: down-regulation of beta-catenin signalling by a combination of tea plus Sulindac. Carcinogenesis. 2003 Feb;24(2):263-7.
Press release American Society For Microbiology on May 28, 2004 during the 104th General Meeting.
Press release University Hospitals Of Cleveland on January 30, 2003