Green Or White? – Choose a Tea
“Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one.”
A half a million years ago some ancient and bold adventurer threw caution to the wind – and then threw tea leaves into a pot of hot water and drank the brew. The rest is a storied history of tea, a history of power and money made from selling it, a history that has always included the belief that, above all, drinking tea insures a long and healthy life. In this case it turns out that the rumor is true.
Tea contains powerful anti-oxidants, substances that scavenge for free radicals. Free radicals damage DNA and are considered to be co-conspirators in the formation of cancer. Tea contains polyphenols, very powerful anti-oxidants, called catechins. And the most powerful (and studied) of these is epigallocatechin gallate, otherwise (and mercifully) known as EGCG.
Tea is processed in several different ways, but all teas are made from the leaf of the same plant. White tea is picked as an immature bud and is unfermented. Green tea is picked as a mature leaf and is unfermented. Black and Oolong teas are made from mature leaves that are fermented to varying degrees. It is the fermentation process that destroys some of the polyphenols, like EGCG, and this is why the unfermented white and green teas are better for you.
Though not yet fully understood, the health benefits of white and green tea appear to be substantial. In 1994, a paper published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed that Chinese women who drank green tea had a 60% lower risk of esophageal cancer, a very common and deadly cancer in China.
And at the University of Purdue scientists reported that green tea reduced the growth of cancer cells.
And at the University of Kansas scientists reported that EGCG was twice as powerful an anti-oxidant as resveratrol, the protective substance in red wine that lowers risk for cardiac disease.
Finally, in 2004 Pace University scientists concluded that white tea could help the body’s immune system.
Researchers are just beginning to understand and appreciate the health-promoting benefits of polyphenols, like those found in white and green tea, but while we wait for additional studies and more information about the specific mechanisms by which white and green tea impart their beneficial effects, it can’t hurt to drink 1-2 cups of white or green tea daily, especially in the morning so that the mild dose of caffeine found in these teas has a chance to wear off by the end of the day.
Play it safe and add white or green tea to your defensive arsenal. Live long and prosper, healthfully.
(c) 2009, Dr. Kathleen Ruddy. All rights reserved. Reprints welcomed so long as article and by-line are not edited and all links are made live.