Green tea may indeed be helpful for weight loss. But just HOW helpful is still unclear. Here’s what you need to know to consider whether or not green tea might be a good choice for you. I’ll also share some tips on how to maximize potential benefits by learning what to prepare or purchase and what to avoid.
“True” tea, as opposed to herbal teas, is made from a plant with the scientific name of Camellia sinensis. Tea made from the leaves, roots, fruit, or flower of any other plant is considered to be “herbal” tea.
The leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant have been found to contain high levels of compounds called polyphenols and in particular a type of polyphenol called catechin flavonoids. These compounds evidently have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and many people simply refer to them as antioxidants.
The compound known as EGCG (epigallo-catechin gallate) is the predominate flavonoid present in green tea and may be responsible for many of the presumed health benefits. Another flavonoid called quercetin may also provide benefits for both health and weight loss.
It is possible there are additional healthful compounds in green tea that are yet to be discovered. I will be focusing primarily on EGCG in this article because we have the most research results to date based on this compound.
Tea Processing and Antioxidants
Green tea is made from mature leaves that are steamed, rolled, and dried right after picking. In contrast, with oolong tea the leaves are partially fermented and with black tea they are fully fermented. This process creates a stronger flavor and also influences the amount of EGCG available.
Green tea has a greater concentration of the flavonoid EGCG than either oolong or black tea. However, recent research suggests that compounds formed from EGCG during the processing of oolong and black teas may also impart important health benefits.
White tea, which is made from buds or young leaves rather than mature leaves, may actually have a higher EGCG content than green tea.
Weight loss and Other Benefits
Many studies have shown green tea can increase metabolic rate and influence body fat. Evidently compounds in green tea may limit the formation of fat cells, reduce the storage of fat, and increase the burning of fat for energy. EGCG seems to play a role but other compounds such as quercetin likely play a role as well.
A research study performed in the Netherlands and reported on in the International Journal of Obesity in 2010 found that green tea may temporarily increase energy expenditure by 4-5 percent and fat oxidation by 10-16 percent. But results with similar studies have not been consistent. (Environmental Nutrition, Oct. 2012)
In addition to weight management, green tea may provide additional health benefits. Animal studies have shown green tea reduces risk for certain kinds of cancer. Other studies with humans suggest green tea may reduce the risk for heart disease and stroke. However, it’s not clear whether the tea is responsible or the total diet and lifestyle choices of the study participants.
So as it stands right now there are many questions yet to be answered. My belief is that further research will support some of the health claims being made today. I also believe that the benefits of green tea may be greater when green tea is part of an overall healthy diet with other plant foods providing additional antioxidants and other healthful compounds.
How much EGCG is necessary?
Some scientists believe whether or not you derive any of the potential benefits from green tea depends on HOW MUCH you drink and HOW OFTEN.
A freshly brewed cup of green tea has about 320 milligrams of total polyphenols. About 190 mg of that amount is EGCG. However, bottled green teas and green tea mixed beverages as might be purchased at a coffee shop typically have far less because of the added ingredients such as sugar, other sweeteners, or simply additional water.
As an example, Snapple Green Tea drink has only a third as much EGCG as a freshly brewed cup of hot tea.
When making freshly brewed green tea, experts suggest not letting the water come to a full boil. Steep a tea bag or leaves for at least 3-4 minutes to allow the polyphenols time to dissolve. In addition, a little lemon juice can help maximize the polyphenols present by protecting them from oxidation.
So how much is enough? The research isn’t clear. I drink 3-4 cups a day. It has become my beverage of choice. If you aren’t sold on green tea give one of the other teas a try and combine your tea with a well-rounded diet including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Watch your calorie intake and it’s a winning formula for weight loss success and possibly better health. What could be better?
Let the scientists continue their research. If you choose green tea you are likely to be on the winning side. If you choose black or oolong tea you may find they are equally as good. If nothing else tea is soothing, flavorful and a far better choice than sweetened beverages. That’s good enough for me.