Can green tea help you lose weight? As one of the most popular herbal teas out there, it's no surprise that green tea comes packed with benefits for those looking to make lifestyle changes or just maintain good health. Whether green tea works for weight loss though is another matter.
Every couple of months, the same health fads come through social media; everyday drinks and foods we have in our store cupboards, fridges, or freezers that can supposedly help us drop pounds as if by magic.
"Green tea is one of the healthiest alternatives to coffee you can drink. It’s loaded with antioxidants and packed with health benefits that may improve brain function, lower the risk of heart disease, and even protect against cancer," says Nina Fava (opens in new tab), a nutritionist and health coach, but much like the lemon and coffee for weight loss trend a couple of months ago, this isn't what it's all cracked up to be. Here Fava explains why and the actual benefits that green tea offers instead.
Can green tea help you lose weight?
Green tea cannot help you lose weight by itself, only a calorie deficit to lose weight can achieve that. This is when you eat fewer calories than you burn every day, creating a deficit in calories that means your body begins to burn fat for energy rather than the nutrients gained through food.
Although there are many ways to secure this deficit, which normally needs to be about 250 to 500 calories below your maintenance level, many medical institutions including the Pennington Biological Research Center (opens in new tab) confirm that it's the only way to lose weight. Most people choose to do it by changing food habits and exercising regularly. Unfortunately, green tea and other detox drinks to lose weight are not the answer.
There's also a body of evidence to prove that green tea in particular makes little to no change in the body weight of overweight adults, even when the tea is prepared through traditional extraction methods. A Cochrane Systematic Review (opens in new tab) looked at 14 different studies on the subject and found that participants lost between 0.2kg and 3.5kg of weight. However, in most cases, this was on the lower end of the spectrum and the researchers didn't consider it "statistically significant" enough to make a real difference.
It's a finding that doesn't surprise nutritionist Fava, who also works with holistic wellness platform, Able (opens in new tab). "Some other studies don't show any increase in metabolism or weight loss, so the effects may depend on the individual and other health factors," she says.
So, can green tea help you lose weight? No, but there are plenty of associated health benefits that makes it a great addition to any healthy weight loss plan.
What are the benefits of green tea?
1. Green tea may raise your metabolic rate
A healthy metabolic rate is essential if you want to lose weight as it controls the number of calories you naturally burn at rest like while sleeping, eating, sitting down, and doing other non-active activities.
"Green tea contains potent antioxidants and caffeine, which may help your metabolism, help with fat burning, and improve exercise performance," Fava explains, pointing to further evidence from Tehran University of Medical Sciences (opens in new tab)that shows the caffeine and a type of polyphenol called catechins in green tea may help elevate the metabolic rate and so, in combination with other factors, this is the only way that green tea could contribute towards weight loss.
2. Green tea may help reduce blood sugar levels
There is a detailed review of evidence by Chongqing Medical Nutrition Research Center (opens in new tab) to show that green tea can certainly help those already diagnosed with diabetes manage their insulin levels, however, Fava explains that "green tea may reduce blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, helping to prevent type 2 diabetes."
The finding was from a study, conducted by Chung-Ang University College of Medicine (opens in new tab), which looked at people who drank six or more cups of green tea every day and found that they were 33% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who drank just one cup per week.
3. Green tea may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
"Green tea may lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol, meaning it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke," says Fava, thanks to green tea's ability to increase the levels of antioxidants in our blood. This helps to prevent the LDL particles from oxidizing, one of the leading physical causes of heart disease.
"Studies from Tohoku University (opens in new tab) and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (opens in new tab) have also shown that people who drink green tea have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease," she says.
4. Green tea may improve brain function
Green tea doesn't just have benefits for weight loss and our cardiovascular system though, it also has a direct impact on our brain health. "Green tea may improve brain function and protect the brain from aging," explains Fava. "The bioactive compounds in green tea protect the neurons in the brain and reduce the risk of some diseases like dementia in older adults."
Does green tea reduce belly fat?
No, because green tea does not work to improve the rate of fat loss on its own, the beverage won't work to reduce belly fat. However, several studies show that catechins in green tea can have some impact on the dangerous visceral fat that gathers around the stomach.
Some research, conducted by the Healthcare Food Research Laboratories (opens in new tab) in Japan, confirms that drinking green tea definitely won't create weight loss alone but those who did lose weight drinking green tea tended to lose a higher percentage of that fat from this area. So, it's worth a go if you aim to learn how to get a flat stomach down the line.
If you are looking to learn how to lose belly fat, nutritionist Kim Pearson (opens in new tab) has some advice. "The first thing to do to tackle belly fat long-term is to work on improving your diet. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods. Limit your intake of sugar and starchy carbohydrates, and base all your meals around a protein source, moderate amounts of healthy fats, and a variety of different colored vegetables," she says.
Keeping a food diary can also be a great way to assess what aspects of your diet are working well, and what you could benefit from improving.
A digital health journalist with over five years experience writing and editing for UK publications, Grace has covered the world of health and wellbeing extensively for Cosmopolitan, The i Paper and more.
She started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness. Everything from the best protein powder to sleep technology, the latest health trend to nutrition essentials, Grace has a huge spectrum of interests in the wellness sphere. Having reported on the coronavirus pandemic since the very first swab, she now also counts public health among them.
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