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Camellia sinensis, commonly known as green tea, is perhaps the one soothing, aromatic beverage that has enjoyed the longest history in terms of medicinal use and application.
It was around the later half of the 1600s when green tea was first observed by a Chinese pharmacist to cause weight loss in people who drank the beverage regularly for years, but it was only in 1995 when western medical laboratories started to investigate on green tea’s reputed weight loss properties.
Fifteen years ago, green tea started to establish a reputable anti- obesity track record in the world of western medicine. Epidemiological and clinical studies continued to offer more and more compelling evidence that this ancient medicine is indeed one of the best health tonics around that can stave off obesity, diabetes , heart disease , and cancer.
While popular weight loss programs abound (i.e Weight Watchers, Atkins, South Beach Diet, Medifast, etc), obesity rates show no signs of regression. Obesity has heavily thrown its weight on the country’s finances, with its sufferers painfully coughing out an aggregate sum of more than $100 billion each year for medical expenses. The huge economic burden of obesity is explained on the basis that this fast-rising morbid disease is the doorway to other chronic diseases.
Obesity results from eating more calories than what you actually burn. To lose weight you need to have a negative caloric balance by cutting down on calories or by expending more energy.
How Does Green Tea Cause Weight Loss?
Powerful polyphenols called catechins mediate green tea’s anti-obesogenic effects. According to numerous experiments, green tea catechins can arrest lipogenesis or fat creation in humans.
In a Taiwanese study , researchers were able to observe among 1103 adults that those who drank tea at least once a week for more than 10 years had 20% less body fat and 2% lower visceral fat compared to those who hardly consumed any tea. Likewise, a cohort study that followed 4,280 Dutch females for 14 years noted an inverse relationship between catechin intake and body mass index.
Numerous studies have probed into the various ways green tea consumption positively affects body weight. To keep the results from getting skewed participants were asked not to change their normal food intake or regular activities. Most of these studies made the same observation: that those who consumed catechin-rich green tea for 3 months not only lowered their bad cholesterol but also ended up slimmer in terms of body weight, waist and hip proportion, and body fat mass. Researchers also saw that catechins in green tea can aid in the nutritional prevention and treatment of modern, life-threatening diseases such as obesity.
It Limits Your Body’s Fat Production and Storage
How much fat can your body store? It depends on the size and number of your adipocytes, also known as fat cells. A low number of adipocytes means less storage space for lipids. Fat cells are created by pre-adipocytes during adipogenesis.
Once adipogenesis takes place, new adipocytes generate more adipocytes. Fat tissue is formed, expanding the body’s storage warehouse for lipids, so to speak. Fat tissue formation is a continuous biological process. Dead adipocytes have to be constantly replaced so the body has to keep creating new ones.
Laboratory study results prove that green tea suppresses adipocyte creation from pre-adipocytes. It also inhibits the multiplication of existing adipocytes, and therefore opposes fat tissue formation . It is surmised that regular consumers of green tea are less capable of storing fat due to the body’s reduced ability to create fat cells and tissue.
It Enables You to Burn More Energy
The total amount of energy you burn if you did nothing but sleep all day is called resting energy expenditure (REE). It is the amount of daily energy your body spends in order to maintain basic biological functions. Some of this energy is used for heat production— thermogenesis. Thermogenesis is partially dependent on the food we eat. Some foods can induce greater heat production in the body than others. Foods that can increase your REE by way of increased body heat production are called thermogenic foods.
One French experiment found out that the daily administration of green tea capsules can cause an increase in REE by inducing thermogenesis. The 10 healthy male participants were all treated with green tea extract, caffeine, and placebo on separate occasions. They experienced a 4% increase in their REE after taking green tea capsules. This increase was not observed after taking caffeine or placebo.
In another study, 31 men and women were instructed to drink 3 servings of green tea a day. After three days, they experienced an REE increase of 4-8%, which is equivalent to 100 more calories burned per day. What the study strongly suggests is that green tea can deliver great weight loss results when habitually consumed in conjunction with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
It Helps You Maintain Your Weight Loss
The powerful ways green tea affects the metabolic rate are of particular benefit to those who want to lose weight and keep if off in the long haul. It is true that a fast metabolism enables you to lose weight , but the further you lose weight, the slower your metabolism unfortunately becomes. This is because on a large part, your metabolic rate is determined by your weight.
As you lose weight , your metabolism slackens and you reach what is called a weight loss plateau where you seem unable to lose more weight. Your trudging metabolism also makes it difficult for you to maintain your weight loss. This is where a metabolism booster can help. Since green tea raises your REE it can also keep your metabolic rate from plummeting. Steady weight loss is then achieved. This has been established by various reports on studies demonstrating the efficacy of regular green tea consumption in successful weight maintenance.
It Compromises Fat Absorption
Our intestines would not be able to absorb the fat we obtain from food unless lipids first undergo a couple of processes:
Lipid emulsification by the liver. The intestine can only absorb macronutrients that are in a water-soluble state. Emulsification of lipids ensures that the water-insoluble lipids become water-soluble, and therefore capable of being absorbed. The liver secretes bile salts to convert dietary fats into water-soluble nutrients called micelles so that they can be absorbed by the small intestine.
Fat digestion by lipases. Dietary lipids can only be metabolized by a group of enzymes called lipases, which are produced by the stomach, pancreas, and small intestine.
Green tea catechins are known to reduce lipid absorption in the intestines. Epigallocatechin-3-galatte (EGCG), green tea’s most powerful catechin, disrupts the function of bile salts and endogenous lipases, keeping dietary fats from getting emulsified and digested. These actions restrict intestinal absorption of lipids, resulting in lower caloric intake of fats and greater expulsion of unused lipids as evidenced by increased fecal fat.
It Decreases Fat Production
Food is comprised of three major macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Upon ingestion these macromolecules disintegrate into their most basic forms in order to be absorbed in the intestines. Carbs are turned into glucose while protein and fat are fragmented into amino acids and fatty acids respectively. Once assimilated these micromolecules are used by the body to carry out its vital functions. The extra glucose, amino and fatty acids that the body is not able to use are stored in the fat cells.
However, only fats can be stored in fat cells. Unutilized carbohydrates and protein must therefore be converted into fat before they can be stored. So every extra gram of carbohydrate or protein that you did not use up is turned into fat. Lipogenesis then takes place. But green tea blocks the activity of fat-creating enzymes , thereby halting lipogenesis. Thus, unused macronutrients do not end up as fat, preventing them from being stored.
Human intervention studies have repeatedly proven that green tea does trigger weight loss and anti- obesity mechanisms in the body. The practicality of incorporating it as a part of an effective weight loss regimen can be explained by simple math.
The average American approximately gains about 2.2 pounds each year. This is due to the typical American consuming 25 more calories than what they actually use up in one day. Green tea can cause a person to lose up to 100 more calories a day by increasing his REE. The frequent consumption of this popular Asian beverage could therefore be enough to keep the majority of the American population from gaining weight.
It has therefore been suggested that the weight loss benefits brought about by the simple act of regular green tea consumption can greatly assuage the obesity epidemic. Epidemiological studies by Hill and colleagues show that drinking green tea to lose weight could be a realistic public health goal. It is superior than other weight loss methods because it can be accomplished without making any drastic changes in lifestyle.
In this age, where dieters are often presented with Weight Watchers and Medifast coupon offers , it is encouraging to know that drinking green tea alone, this ancient health beverage, has significant weight loss benefits. Thanks to this natural herbal drink, shedding excess weight and maintaining weight loss can be easier and less complicated.
1. Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review. Chacko SM, and colleagues. Chinese Medicine. 2010 Apr 6;5:13.
2. Green tea catechins, caffeine and body-weight regulation. Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Physiology and Behavior. 2010 Apr 26;100(1):42-6.
3. Green tea supplementation affects body weight, lipids, and lipid peroxidation in obese subjects with metabolic syndrome. Basu A, and colleagues. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2010 Feb;29(1):31-40.
4. The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis. Hursel R, and colleagues. International Journal of Obesity (Lond). 2009 Sep;33(9):956-61.