Can tea help you lose weight?

6 07 2010

In 2009, Americans spent 3.64 billion dollars on food, beverages, and supplements that were marketed for weight management.  Obviously, people are searching for something to help them lose weight.  What if it was as simple as drinking tea with meals?

Let’s look at two popular varieties of tea, green and black.

Green tea has been getting a lot of publicity for its health benefits over the past few years.  The part of green tea that has been studied the most is a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).  According to a recent study in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, EGCG was found to increase fat oxidation by 33 percent.  This is the reason a lot of supplement manufacturers add this green tea extract to their products.  But I always recommend that you try to get what you need from food first before turning to supplements, so…

How much green tea do you need to drink to see benefit?

According to Dr. Josh Lambert, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at Penn State, the effective dose is a minimum of 3 cups per day.  It is most likely you will need to drink 3-6 cups per day.  I am referring to tea that you have brewed either using tea bags or loose leaf tea with an infuser.  So, this means bottled green tea, like Arizona Tea, doesn’t count.  As bottled teas sit on the shelf, the polyphenols degrade and you lose the benefit you are looking for.  In addition, most have a lot of added sugar, which would counteract any weight loss effects.  There are many varieties of green tea.  Personally, I like “Gunpowder Green Tea” (loose leaf).  If you live in Lawrence look for it in a Hyvee grocery store.

And now let’s look at black tea.

Some new research in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that black tea may be as effective in weight management as green tea.  This research study used mice, so it still needs to be repeated with humans.  But the results are intriguing.  The researchers fed mice a high-fat, high-calorie diet.  The mice that were given black tea extracts did not see the body weight and fat gain.  These benefits were linked to reduced fat absorption.  So if you are looking to lose weight, you may benefit by drinking some black tea with your meal.

As a reminder, I promote food first.  There are real concerns with a lot of supplements, especially those marketed for weight loss.  Green tea is safe.  However, green tea extracts in the form of a supplement may cause toxicity.  Another point for consideration; tea can inhibit iron absorption.  So, if you tend to have low levels of iron, make sure you separate the consumption of iron-containing food and tea by at least an hour…

Bottom Line: Tea may be beneficial in weight loss.  Drink it with meals (unless iron deficient) and as part of snacks.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

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