Is Green tea good for weight loss? Does green tea “burn fat?”
Believe it or not, more and more often you’ll find green tea (or green tea extract) included in the compilations of many of the more popular weight loss supplements today (interestingly, it may not be quite as good as oolong tea, reviewed here!)
And why are supplement makers so hasty to include green tea in their weight loss products?
Well, the benefits of green tea are numerous. In fact, if you were to go to PubMed.com and do a search for green tea, you’d find over 2,000 studies performed on green tea and its components (eg, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), theanine, etc). Possible benefits are being investigated for weight loss, cancer prevention, antioxidant activity, cognitive enhancement, general good health and well being… and the list goes on and on.
But why is green tea included in most popular fat burners today?
Many reasons. First of all, green tea extract is a source of caffeine, and is often used as the caffeine component of many popular fat burners.
That makes it a decent quality fat burner in and of itself. However…
If that’s all green tea did, this would be a pretty short article. Luckily, it provides additional benefits, far and beyond what plain caffeine could do.
First, it contains powerful antioxidants. Researchers have suggested that the active ingredient EGCG (called epigallocatechin gallate ), may be up to 200 times more powerful than vitamin E as an oxidant.
And there’s more. Specifically for those of you who are looking to green tea for weight loss.
Green tea may be useful as a glucose regulator, meaning it slows the rise in blood sugar following a meal.
It does this by slowing the action of a particular digestive enzyme called amylase. This enzyme is pivotal in the breakdown of starches (carbs), that can cause blood sugar levels to soar following a meal (see Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Sep;84(3):551-5).
This is pretty exciting stuff. Along with a chromium, and possibly a vanadyl supplement, green tea might be the missing link in proper glucose management.
Green tea has also helped aid weight loss by increasing the metabolic rate, causing those who use it to experience greater calorie burn (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999 Dec;70(6):1040-5)
A recent study further validates green tea’s effectiveness. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Am J Clin Nutr; 81:122-129), it indicated the ingestion of a tea rich in catechins (catechins are a major component of green tea extract) leads to both a lowering of bodyfat AND of cholesterol levels.
Additionally, green tea may inhibit fatty acid synthase (see Life Sci. 2004 Mar 26;74(19):2389-99, Int J Cancer. 2003 Oct 10;106(6):856-62 , Biotechnol Appl Biochem. 2006 Jan;43(Pt 1):1-7, Curr Med Chem. 2006;13(8):967-77).
Fatty acid synthase is an enzymatic system that is involved in the process of turning carbohydrates into fat.
Early animal studies suggest the inhibition of fatty acid synthase can lead to dramatic weight loss.
If that weren’t enough, there’s also evidence that consuming green tea high in catechins reduces cardiovascular risks in addition to reducing body fat (Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007 Jun;15(6):1473-83).
In short, green tea’s weight loss benefits are a result of several mechanisms.
As discussed, these include an increased metabolism, a positive effect on blood sugar and insulin regulation, and possibly the inhibiting of certain enzymes which are required for the processing of carbohydrates and fats. It also has been shown to lower LDL levels (that’s the “bad” cholesterol) as well as triglyceride levels.
(See Mol Nutr Food Res. 2006 Feb;50(2):176-87, Am J Clin Nutr; 81:122-129, Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. 2000 Feb;24(2):252-8, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999 Dec;70(6):1040-5 — for additional proof of green tea’s weight loss effectiveness).
The combination of caffiene with green tea — found in many popular fat burners — also seems to encourage weight loss (Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1195-204), and therefore is a smart addition to any fat burner compilation.
Despite what seems to be mounds of positive, clinical evidence, one thing needs to be emphasized…
Green tea may “work”, but its effects are subtle at best. For instance, while one study (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999 Dec;70(6):1040-5) indicates taking this supplement contributes to an elevated metabolism, the amount it is actually raised it (4%), is not a lot, and amounts to about 100 calories per day for the average person.
Obviously, if you have 20-30lbs. to lose, this isn’t much of a help. Of course, green tea may help in other ways too. Personally, I found it helped eliminate cravings for sweets somewhat. If this helps you to avoid making detrimental snacking decisions throughout the day it helps your diet plan along—indirectly, in that you’re consuming less calories.
Of course, none of this means you should not consider supplmenting with green tea. With its potent antioxidant action and numerous documented benefits, you really can’t go wrong drinking a couple of cups of this stuff a day. What you should be, however, is realistic about your expectations.
If you’d like to try green tea, you have a couple of choices…
1. Drink a high quality green tea purchased from a reputable source (your best choice!).
And I’m not talking the regular store-bought stuff. I’m talking the loose leaves, direct from China.
This is the best way to get the benefits of green tea.
It is, for instance, highly unlikely that supplement manufacturers are using the highest grades teas (which are expensive) for use in their supplements. Plus, if you don’t know where in China the stuff is sourced from, you run the risk of it being contaminated with all sorts of nasty chemicals.
For the last few years, I’ve been buying my green tea directly from Julian Tai, a friend of mine from Amazing Green Tea.
Julian sells the world’s best green tea on his web site. Yep… the same stuff the Chinese politicians and celebrities drink—the really good stuff. Since I’m a complete tea novice, Julian has been a fantastic help in steering me towards different blends to try. I have tried many grades of Julian’s tea over the last couple of years, and they truly are amazing.
His is the only tea I buy now.
It’s a quite a difference to the store-bought stuff you may have tried. The teas come right from the most pristine tea fields in China. Shipping is surprisingly fast, and the product is of high quality (it comes loose, in packages — you just need to buy a “tea diffuser” to use it. You can get these anywhere—even your local Wal-mart!). Here’s a few pictures of my last order (the shipping box, the box opened, and finally the contents of my order)…
Buying tea in this manner might seem expensive, but since you only need need a tiny amount of tea to brew a cup, and since each tea can be diffused several times, it is actually pretty cost effective! I only need to order a couple of times per year!
Because there is such a wide variety of tea to choose from, I asked Julian to make a couple of suggestions for you…
- If you are looking for the biggest “bang for your buck”, check out this list of recommendations. Two very popular choices are Huangshan Maofeng A grade and Silver Needle white tea.
- For the customer who has a generous budget and demands the highest quality, Julian recommends the Dragon Well tea 4-in-1 Sampler. I love the samplers, as they give you a great opportunity to try several different grades for yourself, and decide which grade gives the best trade-off in term of quality/price.
I highly recommend Julian and his product. I can personally guarantee your experience will be pleasurable and efficient… just like mine have always been!
2. Buy capsules of green tea extract: Many popular brands now provide green tea in this format now. It’s pretty cheap, and best of all, it’s easy and convenient! PrimaForce’s Lean Green available at BodyBuilding.com, our recommended online retailer.
It’s a pretty potent product, standardized for 50% EGCG, and 60 caps sell for just over $10.
There are, however, two downsides to capsules…
First, you can’t determine the source of the tea, the quality—or even if its likely to be contaminated. And, if you like drinking green tea, you miss out on that experience, too.
Second, recent clinical data suggests that there may be a viable health risk in over-consuming green tea extracts. Of course, if you don’t over do it, you’re likely to be fine. But because these extracts are so concentrated it may be difficult to know what exactly, constitutes “over doing” it.
These two reasons are why I choose to drink Julian’s tea, instead of purchasing a supplement.
In closing… it certainly appears that green tea is a darned good health-promoting supplement, and it shows some real promise for promoting weight loss as well. It’s one of the few natural supplements that has some decent clinical proof validating its claims. It’s well worth trying, especially if you’ve got a good diet and exercise program under way.