Green tea sales are booming across the country with green tea topping the charts of the most popular beverages and supplements. Where did the demand for this bitter leaf come from? Recent claims that green tea causes weight loss brought this about. In this episode, we will examine these claims and compare them to scientific research on the topic. You won’t want to miss it!
Hi and Welcome to Nutritionally Speaking. I’m your host, Michaela Ballmann. Today’s episode is about the ever-popular Green Tea. Green Tea is toted as being a potent weight loss aid, as well as providing (benefits to the heart). Are the claims about Green Tea true? Can it really be the long-awaited pill that will drop the pounds? Should I go pick up some Green Tea today?
Some background first: green tea comes from SE Asia, specifically China, where it is used as medicine and as part of the culture. It is gaining popularity in the West where it is thought to cause weight loss and protect against CVD. green tea is the 2nd most common beverage and the 4th most commonly used dietary supplement in the U.S.1, so a lot of research is being done on it.
Green tea differs from black and oolong tea in that it is the unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant2 prepared by withering the leaves, steaming or panfrying them, and then drying them. Green Tea leaves contain the highest amount of flavonoids3, which are the water-soluble pigments in plants that act as anti-oxidants. In comparison to black tea, Green Tea has stronger effects in promoting heart health, can also improve blood lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Bear with me now as I bring in some long scientific names. I’ll be quick! green tea contains about 35% concentration of phytochemicals from the polyphenol family, specifically Flavonols and Flavanols with the Flavanols being the most important in causing weight loss and protecting the heart. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) makes up half of the catechin concentration and is therefore the most potent. Caffeine also makes up 3-6% of its dry weight5. What I want you to remember from what I just said, are the letters EGCG—this is the compound in green tea that is unique to it and distinguishes it from other teas, and is the reason why it may cause weight loss.
In order to discuss this topic with you, I had to do a lot of research on recent studies done on green tea to see what the scientists are saying about it. Some studies suggest that Green Tea has the following effects related to weight loss (The word SUGGEST should be bold in your mind because it means that what I’m about to say is NOT 100% certain and it does NOT happen 100% of the time):
Green tea may also have many benefits on the heart. These mechanisms are also very complicated so if you feel that I only brushed the surface and want to know more, write me! I’ll be glad to give you more info!
It also can reduce a person’s risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), and can have a positive effect in those with diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity
By reducing triglycerides, fasting blood glucose levels, insulin, and fat in the abdomen, green tea can also help in people with metabolic syndrome.
All of these favorable effects can be wiped out by adding milk to your green tea! Sorry to those who like to put milk or cream in their tea, but that takes away the effects I just listed. The protein in the milk (cow’s milk or soy milk) will bind to the anti-oxidants and create a compound that can’t be broken down or absorbed, so all the anti-oxidants, the anti-inflammatory effects, the lowering of cholesterol, heart attack, and stroke risk can be taken away by the addition of milk to the tea.
Now to the disclaimer: I must also tell you that there can be negative effects if you consume more than 5 cups of green tea a day. If you drink this amount, you may experience acute liver failure, stomach pain, diarrhea, jaundice, and a bunch of other really bad stuff, ESPECIALLY ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!!!!!!! So, too much of a good thing really is a bad thing!
The US Pharmacopeia has stated that there is “Uncertain product quality and efficacy” of green tea and that the evidence about green tea is unclear. So, the studies that I have quoted are not all the studies out there. Some studies do not show significant effects on weight loss or heart health. We still do not understand green tea, and why we sometimes see positive effects and other times no effect or a negative effect.
So, what we’ve learned today is that Green tea can have very beneficial effects on TAG and C levels, and promote heart health and weight loss, but there is still no recommendation for it being used as prevention or treatment. As more studies are conducted and we see clearly the ways in which green tea causes these protective effects, we will see recommended serving sizes and therapeutic uses of green tea. For now, my recommendations are: (1) drink green tea freely up to 5cups/d; (2) for health benefits, do not add milk; (3) take with food; and (4) combine with appropriate calorie intake (for your height, age, weight, and physical activity level) and exercise for optimum effect.
Green Tea is not a miracle weight loss drug. When used in moderation, it can help with the health of your heart and in dropping a few pounds. The key to weight loss is calorie restriction, eating less, exercising more, creating a lifestyle that incorporates a variety and balance of different types and colors of food, and regular activity. Green Tea can be an aid or a helper in this process, but drinking green tea won’t cancel out the negative effects of remaining sedentary and eating high-fat, high-sodium, refined foods.
I hope that this podcast was helpful in explaining Green Tea and what it can do for us if we use it correctly and pair it with a healthy lifestyle. If you would like more information, know where to research the topic, or have any questions, please write me.
Thanks for listening and see you next time!