A hot favourite in the health miracle department, green tea – China’s most popular beverage export – enjoys quite the fan following.
It is the weight loss angle that draws most people to buy truck loads of green tea and sip it by the gallons each day. Every one, from a young weight loss aspirant to a middle aged businessman, is convinced that green tea helps weight loss. But how true is this ‘green tea for weight loss’ claim? Is it really that simple? Today, Nysha Bijlani – nutritionist, Dr. KK Agarwal – cardiologist, and Arnav Sarkar – strength and conditioning coach, help us answer this question: Does green tea actually help weight loss?
Over the last decade, several health studies have looked into the health benefits of green tea. Most of these studies are inconclusive and most results are tabulated under ‘potential health’ benefits. Leading the brigade of most believed health benefits is the claim that green tea benefits weight loss, because it boosts metabolism. Studies like the 2003 University of Birmingham study, mention green tea’s ability to aid fat oxidation. However, take a closer look and you will find words like: “This implies that ingestion of green tea extract can not only increase fat oxidation during moderately intensive exercise but also improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in healthy young men.” (Via)
In fact, several study findings are inconsistent with regards to just how much green tea actually benefits healthy weight loss in human beings. Dr. KK Agarwal says, “While green tea may boost metabolism; this is not enough to make one lose weight fast, unless people complement it with physical workouts and other alternatives.”
Complementing any kind of nutrition with an adequate workout is imperative for weight loss. “There are no two ways about the fact that weight loss can be achieved effectively only by eating sensibly and working out. If green tea was the answer to fat loss and optimum health, the world would be a different place today. Even if green tea does increase metabolism to a certain extent, one can only break down fat stores by exercising and increasing the body’s muscle mass to raise his/her BMR,” says nutritionist Nysha Bijlani.
Moreover, green tea can never serve as a shortcut to weight loss. Strength and conditioning coach, Arnav Sarkar helps us understand this better – “There was a study in which it was seen that green tea caused only about 0.3% reduction in bodyweight in a 12 week period, so that would be only about 0.27 kg weight loss for someone who weighs 90 kgs in 3 months, which is insignificant and disappointing to say the least. So if you need to lose weight, look at the bigger picture, and start eating foods that help your body, and get regular exercise to boost your metabolism for real, and of course get adequate sleep and keep your stress levels low.”
While it is true that green tea is rich in flavinoids and that flavinoids have various health benefits, it is also true that black tea has theaflavins – also healthy, also supported by health studies. Further – “All the proven scientific benefits of green tea would hold true only if large quantities are consumed i.e. 8-10 cups/day which is not advisable. So the health benefits one gets out of consuming 2-3 cups/day are better bowel movements, prevention of gastrointestinal bacterial infections and better immunity provided fresh fruits and vegetables are a part of the daily diet. It is not advisable to take any concentrated supplements of green tea since the primary source of antioxidants should be natural foods, so drinking it as hot water flavored with green tea bags is good enough,” says Nysha.
As far as frequency of green tea consumption is concerned, Dr. KK Agarwal adds – “The habit of drinking too much tea should be avoided because too much of tea causes giddiness, sore throat, insomnia, blood impurity as well as paralysis. High tea consumption causes lethargy and headaches, and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome can be aggravated.”
Healthy weight management isn’t a one-cup-solves-all solution. A cup of green tea might stimulate digestion, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll melt your body’s fat deposits. Green, black or purple – a cup of anything can never substitute exercise and nutrition – as the Chinese government realized in 2005. Despite green tea being a preferred drink amongst its elite beaurocrats in Shanghai, the very same city’s government “announced a special budget to encourage them to go to sports clubs.” (Via)
The choice is yours.
Nysha Bijlani is a practicing Community Nutritionist and runs MINT – a fitness studio in Mumbai.
Arnav Sarkar is a strength and conditioning trainer based in Kolkata. His style of training depends on simplicity and sensibility over fad and short term methods.
Dr. KK Aggarwal, Padmashri and Dr. B C Roy National Awardee, is a consultant for Medicine and Cardiology at Moolchand Heart Hospital, New Delhi.