A DAILY cup of special tea may combat the obesity epidemic, scientists will say today.
An extract of white tea prevents new fat cells from forming and helps to burn off mature ones, according to research.
Nutritionist Marc Winnefeld said: "In the industrialised countries, the rising incidence of obesity-associated disorders including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes constitutes a growing problem.
"We have shown that white tea may be an ideal natural source of slimming substances." Mr Winnefeld and colleagues at German multinational Beiersdorf AG, which makes personal-care products, studied the biological effects of the extract – the least processed version of the tea plant Camellia Sinensis.
They grew human fat cells in the laboratory and found that after treating them with the white tea compound, the amount of fat in them was reduced.
Mr Winnefeld, whose findings are published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism, said: "The extract solution induced a decrease in the expression of genes associated with the growth of new fat cells, while also prompting existing adipocytes (fat cells] to break down the fat they contain."
Obesity is a growing problem in Scotland, which now just trails the US for overweight people among countries in the developed world.
Currently, 25 per cent of the adult population in Scotland are obese, ahead of 24 per cent in England and Wales, but still a long way behind America's 32.2 per cent.
White tea is made from the buds and first leaves of the plant used to make green tea and the black tea most commonly drunk in Britain and other Western countries.
It is less processed than the other teas and contains more of the ingredients thought to be active on human cells which the researchers believe to be responsible for many of the fat-busting effects seen in their study.
For hundreds of years, the Chinese have kept the extremely beneficial properties of white tea a secret.
Some scientists have dubbed it the ultimate health drink.
As well as being an aid to weight loss, it has been shown to inhibit cancer cells and prevent the formation of new ones.
White tea is also said to be very effective in giving radiant, problem-free skin. The abundant antioxidants help fight off "free radicals" – agents responsible for wrinkles and ageing.
White tea has also been shown to have anti-bacterial and antiviral properties similar to honey, with specific natural chemicals that have the unique ability to kill bugs.
And research has shown that people who drank white tea were more likely to have stronger bones compared to those who did not.
Meanwhile, white tea lowers the "bad" cholesterol level in the body through a class of antioxidants called catechins.
These help maintain the correct amount of cholesterol required by the body.
Mr Winnefeld added: "This plant extract is an ideal natural source to modulate the adipocyte life cycle at different stages and to induce anti-obesity effects."