Tea is the second most-consumed drink in the world, preceded only by water. And green tea, one of the most popular of the teas, contains nutrients that supposedly help melt away pounds. Unfortunately, research shows that the tea may not be the solution to your weight problem, and it's no replacement for a healthy diet and exercise program. If you're struggling with your weight, talk to your doctor for suggestions as to how to go about losing it and whether green tea makes a healthy addition.
Green tea, because it's less processed, has a higher concentration of polyphenols, also called catechins, then any other types of tea, including black and oolong. The catechins in the green tea are one of the active ingredients linked to weight loss. They might prevent the accumulation of body fat, as well as increase body temperature so you burn more calories.
In addition to catechins, green tea is also a source of caffeine. Caffeine helps your body burn both calories and fat, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, burning 9 extra calories for every 100 milligrams of caffeine you drink.
However, while lab and animal studies seem to indicate that the components in green tea decrease fat production and increase fat- and calorie-burning, its weight loss benefits for humans are less certain, according to a 2010 review article published in The Journal of Nutrition.
To get the amount of caffeine and catechins purported to help you lose weight, you'd need to drink 2 to 3 cups of green tea a day, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Depending on brewing techniques, 1 cup of green tea has about 120 to 320 milligrams of catechins and 10 to 60 milligrams of caffeine.
A number of studies have been conducted to test the theory that green tea can help with weight loss. It's important to note that most of these studies used green tea extract, not the actual tea. Drinking regular green tea may not help you lose any weight, according to a 2012 clinical study published in Obesity, which compared the effects of drinking regular green tea and a catechin-rich green tea on weight loss in a group of men and women with type 2 diabetes. While the group drinking catechin-rich tea lost a half-pound over the 12-week study period, the group drank a lower-catechin green tea gained half a pound.
Of the studies that show green tea might offer some weight loss benefits, the amount of weight lost isn't significant, according to a 2012 review study published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
All calories count when you're trying to lose weight. And while the weight-loss benefits of green tea aren't that great, if you're drinking it to give yourself a little extra boost, you don't want to negate any benefits by adding extra calories from sweeteners such as honey or milk or cream. A cup of plain green tea has only 2 calories, making it a healthy addition to your weight loss diet. Adding 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of cream bumps up the calories in your very low-calorie tea to 86 calories. That may not sound like much, but drinking 3 cups a day adds an extra 258 calories, which may add a little more than 2 pounds a month if you drink them in addition to your regular meal plan.
Green tea is widely consumed and associated with a number of health benefits, including decreasing risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. It's also used to help reduce inflammation for those with inflammatory bowel disease and may aid in blood sugar control in people who suffer from diabetes. And when consumed as a beverage, green tea is considered safe.
However, beware of Green Tea Extracts or GTEs. These are concentrated formulations of green tea. The active ingredients are the same class of compounds called catechins that are good for weight loss, but in concentrated extracts can deplete some of the protective molecules in cells such as glutathione that are there to protect us from injury. A high dose of green tea extract (not cups of tea) can lead in susceptible persons to actually quite severe or even fatal liver injury.
One of the catechins most suspected is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). So be cautious and limit any green tea extracts to 500 milligrams (mg) of catechins per day.
Also, because green tea is a source of caffeine, you may want to talk to your doctor before you brew your first cup if you have a history of heart problems, high blood pressure or anxiety. The tea may also interact with medications, including chemotherapy, antibiotics, blood thinners and blood pressure medication.