Antioxidants are nothing if not a moving target. One day we should all be eating blueberries and the next its pomegranate. Only 24 hours after posting that green tea is better than sliced bread and just as I was about enjoy my afternoon cup of Japanese macha green tea, I opened my email to find that white tea is the new black. According to some new research white tea is even better than green or black teas at fight against skin aging, cancer and inflammation.

Researchers from Kingston University, London, in conjunction with Neal’s Yard Remedies, were "blown away" (a phrase that qualifies as scientific in England) by results that illustrated white tea’s ability to inhibit enzymes that attack collagen and elastase, and mimic the action of one of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. The study, published in the BioMed Central journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, tested 23 extracts from 21 plants, all provided by Neal’s Yard Remedies, and found white tea to be the star.

They also tested the extracts ability to mimic superoxide dismutase (SOD) which is a naturally occurring enzyme that breaks down the dangerous reactive oxygen species into oxygen and hydrogen peroxide.

White tea showed the highest inhibitory activity against collagenase at 87 per cent, compared to green tea (47.17 per cent) and rose tincture (40.96 per cent). Similarly, the extract’s anti-elastase effect was over 89 per cent, the highest of all those tested.

Looking at the combined action of the extract on elastase and collagenase, white tea has a inhibiting activity of over 180 per cent. The next best of the extracts tested came in at 80 percent, explained Naughton.

This all happened with very small concentrations - less than you would get from a cup of tea. The reason could be that white tea comes the newest buds of the plant, covered in fine white hairs, whereas black tea is picked later and some of the components will have oxidised decreasing its health giving properties. As far as I am aware, green tea is still a winner as a sunscreen.

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