Antimutagenic Activity of Green vs. White Tea

Antimutagenic Activity of Green vs. White Tea
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The ability of green versus white tea to protect against in vitro DNA damage caused by a cooked chicken carcinogen (heterocyclic amine).

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The same leaves of the same plant are used to make white, green, oolong, and black tea. The primary difference is how they’re processed, with white being the least processed, and black being the most.

In one of the videos I made a few years ago, I talked about how the tea with the most antioxidant power was green tea—unless you added lemon, in which case white tea pulls ahead. But what about going a step further and testing their respective abilities to prevent DNA damage?

Previous studies have shown that, “The degree of protection against DNA damage by tea appeared to be related to the extent of processing, since green tea was generally more effective than black tea. This suggested the possibility that higher antimutagenic or anticarcinogenic activity might be expected from teas that have undergone the least amount of processing.” So, they compared the antimutagenic activity of white tea in comparison with green tea.

Bacteria, just like every other living creature, uses the same DNA that we do. So, one common test to see if something is carcinogenic is to drip it on Salmonella growing in a petri dish, and see if it causes DNA mutations. And to test if something protects DNA, you add it along with the carcinogen, and see if there are fewer mutations.

The carcinogen they picked for this test was a doozy: 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo-4,5-b-pyridine, a heterocyclic amine found mostly in grilled, fried, and broiled chicken—added with green tea or white tea to see what would happen.

Here’s with the green tea. By dripping on green tea, you could drop the number of DNA mutations caused by the carcinogen by more than a half. But here’s the white. Appeared to completely 100% block the DNA damage.

And the longer you brew it, the better. This is against another cooked meat carcinogen. You’ll often see a recommendation to only brew white tea one or two minutes, but if you go out to five, you can get significantly more DNA protection.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Prenn and Edgar181 via Wikimedia Commons.

The same leaves of the same plant are used to make white, green, oolong, and black tea. The primary difference is how they’re processed, with white being the least processed, and black being the most.

In one of the videos I made a few years ago, I talked about how the tea with the most antioxidant power was green tea—unless you added lemon, in which case white tea pulls ahead. But what about going a step further and testing their respective abilities to prevent DNA damage?

Previous studies have shown that, “The degree of protection against DNA damage by tea appeared to be related to the extent of processing, since green tea was generally more effective than black tea. This suggested the possibility that higher antimutagenic or anticarcinogenic activity might be expected from teas that have undergone the least amount of processing.” So, they compared the antimutagenic activity of white tea in comparison with green tea.

Bacteria, just like every other living creature, uses the same DNA that we do. So, one common test to see if something is carcinogenic is to drip it on Salmonella growing in a petri dish, and see if it causes DNA mutations. And to test if something protects DNA, you add it along with the carcinogen, and see if there are fewer mutations.

The carcinogen they picked for this test was a doozy: 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenyl-imidazo-4,5-b-pyridine, a heterocyclic amine found mostly in grilled, fried, and broiled chicken—added with green tea or white tea to see what would happen.

Here’s with the green tea. By dripping on green tea, you could drop the number of DNA mutations caused by the carcinogen by more than a half. But here’s the white. Appeared to completely 100% block the DNA damage.

And the longer you brew it, the better. This is against another cooked meat carcinogen. You’ll often see a recommendation to only brew white tea one or two minutes, but if you go out to five, you can get significantly more DNA protection.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Prenn and Edgar181 via Wikimedia Commons.

Doctor's Note

The antioxidant data with that interesting lemon juice result can be found in Green Tea vs. White. Other interesting videos on tea include Dietary Brain Wave Alteration and Cannabis Receptors & Food. The longer-the-better brewing time for white tea didn’t surprise me, but this did: Cold-Steeping Green Tea. Another way to maximize the phytonutrient absorption in tea is to eat it; see Is Matcha Good for You? and A Better Breakfast. One can overdo it, though: Overdosing on Tea. Other ways to protect one’s DNA include eating broccoli (see DNA Protection from Broccoli); avoiding bacon (see Carcinogens in the Smell of Frying Bacon); not overdoing stevia (see Is Stevia Good For You?); and eating a plant-based diet (see Repairing DNA Damage and Research Into Reversing Aging).  

Isn’t caffeinated tea dehydrating, though? That’s the topic of my next video; see Is Caffeinated Tea Dehydrating? 

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: Is Caffeinated Tea Really Dehydrating?Ergothioneine: A New Vitamin?Why Less Breast Cancer in Asia?; and Foods That May Block Cancer Formation.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

33 responses to “Antimutagenic Activity of Green vs. White Tea

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  1. The antioxidant data with that interesting lemon juice result can be found in Green Tea vs. White. Other interesting videos on tea include Dietary Brain Wave Alteration and Cannabis Receptors & Food. The longer-the-better brewing time for white tea didn’t surprise me, but this did: Cold Steeping Green Tea. Another way to maximize the phytonutrient absorption in tea is to eat it; see Is Matcha Good for You? and A Better Breakfast. One can overdo it, though: Overdosing on Tea. Other ways to protect one’s DNA include eating broccoli, avoiding bacon, not overdoing stevia, and eating a plant-based diet (see Repairing DNA Damage and Research Into Reversing Aging).  Isn’t caffeinated tea dehydrating though? That’s the topic of tomorrow’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day. While you’re waiting, there are an additional 1,000+ topics to explore.




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    1. Dr. G if you keep teaching us how to protect our bodies form all the mutagens we are going to be the youngest looking old people in the world.

      You are our David Copperfield–but instead of keeping the secret to yourself you have taught us how to be our own Fountain of Youth ;-)




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  2. An anti-mutagenicity assay in a petri dish says nothing at all about how white tea may function to protect DNA in a body consuming the tea. This sort of exp’t is at best a means of “observation”, the first step in the scientific method. So, an interesting hypothesis has been generated: white tea contains a substance(s) which can act as an anti-mutagen. But is this ingredient absorbed from the human gut? If so, does the active ingredient get past the intestinal enzyme defenses? Past the liver without being altered? Is it rapidly excreted by the kidneys before it has a chance to do any DNA defending? Is its dilution in the whole body past the point that it has any action? Lots to find out before assuming that it does anything at all. Who knows–perhaps it is metabolized by the liver into a compound that damages DNA. Nature is complex.




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    1. I think you have valid points. But to say that it says nothing is a bit of an overstatement itself, isn’t it. I mean there is lots of epi pointing the protective effects of green tea relative to non-tea drinkers. It’s like putting pieces of a jig saw puzzle together with a blue sky and clouds together and then saying whoops my piece doesn’t have any blue in it, it’s just white. The overall evidence is consistent in the same direction. Less processed tea is more protective, longer steeping better than less. It’s a geiger counter not a silver bullet. We know green tea is protective. how best to prepare it, how long to steep it. We have some answers or better phrased “associations” to what you ask. Doesn’t require a leap of faith, just a small step.




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      1. For another part of the data puzzle that points in the same direction see: International J Food Science

        Comparative activity of antioxidants from wheat sprouts, Morinda citrifolia, fermented papaya and white tea

        2006, Vol. 57, No. 3-4
        ,
        Pages 168-177 … a test tube study with extracts……the purported antioxidants are probably from families of reducing glycosides and polyphenols’…. . What level of bioavailability would be developed by these plants is indeed open to question, but it is a likely supposition that they are indeed beneficial – except for papaya which is just really tasty- because they act through the same agents that have been found to be active in clinical studies e.g see: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/71/6/1698s.abstract




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  3. >Isn’t caffeinated tea dehydrating though?

    No; if it were, the water-pill folks would go out of business. And believe it or not, I have heard people say, “Water is a diuretic! It makes me pee!”




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  4. Guess I’m back to liking the white variants of tea, not that I have been overindulging in heterocyclic amines but I’ll bet it’s protective to almost anything that’s mutagenic, Including the Incredible Hulk.  That’s why I believe in the Incredible Bulk–you know what I mean. ;-O 




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    1. Dr Dynamic, I had a professor in gastroenterology, who said that if you take a patient, and let the patient defecate on a white piece of paper from 1 meter above, you can make rather exact diagnosis of their intestine ailment, you dont necessarily need fancy things like colonoscopy, biopsy and so forth.




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        1. Dr. McDougall taught me about a famed surgeon that lived in Africa for about 30 years from Britain (I cannot remember his name), and he learned something very profound: 

          Big poop, Small Hospital; Small Poop, Big Hospital.




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          1. Stephen Smith M.D.  (Bellevue Hospital, New York) said 100 years ago: The art of growing old is to get a bad stomach, and take care of that bad stomach.




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  5. Drs. Beliveau and Gingras’ work shows a wide variety of polyphenols in green tea from different sources.  Japanese green tea shows a much higher content,  A list can be found at 
    http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?t=8070 or in their “Foods that Fight Cancer” book.  Since the winner of their tests has 5 times the amount of ECGC than the lowest Chinese teas, it poses the questions of validity of the green vs. white tea relationship unless it was done with a widely grown, controlled group of teas.  FYI the green tea champ can be purchased from a Montreal company.




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  6. Years ago I either read or heard in an online talk, that sencha and jasmine green teas had roughly the same level of anti-cancer benefits. But, when the two were both consumed daily–not necessarily at the same time– the protection level almost doubled. I can’t relocate this citation. Is anyone familiar with it.

    Also, in various studies that cite the number of cups of green tea consumed, in Japan or in the US, they always refer to cups. What’s a cup? Is it a tiny 2 or 3oz cup or a western 4 or 5 ounce teacup or an 8 to 10 or more ounce cup that is commonly assumed for drinks like coffee? I’m surprised that researchers don’t cite their findings in ounces or some other standard measure?




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  7. Looks like they took four different white teas and ran them up against one green. The chart used here takes the best performing white against the single green tea. The freshness issue is major for green teas (perhaps whites as well) according to some studies. So is it really a worthwhile comparison? It’s hard-impossible in fact-to get great and fresh longjing in the U.S. Chinese storage of teas is also very often quite bad. Chinese teas can have immense levels of pesticides as well. Perhaps comparing a very fresh Japanese green tea which sometimes can be obtained quite fresh with great storage might be a good idea here.




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  8. So there are a billion types (or at least it seems like it) of white tea and green tea. Which type do you recommend? Or does it matter as long as it’s white / green?




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  9. Now we know we should stick with the white tea, but the question is which one is the healthiest? Silver Needle, White Peony, Long Life Eyebrow or Tribute Eyebrow?




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  10. Thank you Dr. Michael. All teas gives the same Nutrients. Except very insignificant deviation. White tea is a fad started only in USA. And the study is not enough o prove anything according to FDA. Please go to the dedicated Tea site for more info. http://www.socialteav.com Thanks. And go to either “ScientificResearchandOtherTeaPapers” or “Tea4Health.”




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  11. Dear Dr. Michael Greger, first off thanks for your terrific site with all those useful informations. I’d like to know whether there are studies comparing the health effects of brewed conventional green teas to matcha. I enjoy both each and every day and love their taste.




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