Green Tea and Belly Fat

Overview

Like many natural fat burners that get a boost from celebrity endorsements, green tea has taken this path. Mentioned by Dr. Mehmet Oz as an “anti-ager” on a March 2008 airing of Oprah Winfrey’s TV talk show, green tea swiftly picked up marketing momentum as a weight loss aid. However, like most natural belly fat burners, there’s not a lot of science to support green tea. Safe to drink? Most likely, as long as you do so in moderation. However, clinical trials–those that study people–on green tea’s effect on weight loss are lacking.

Properties of Green Tea

Certain constituents in herbs and in other botanicals give them medicinal effects. According to Nutriwatch.Org, maintained by the National Council Against Health Fraud, the polyphenols that make up almost 30 percent of the dry weight of tea leaves are the constituents most investigated by researchers. Among polyphenols, catechins are given particular weight, especially in green tea. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) notes that six catechin compounds are found in green tea, the most studied being epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG.

Green Tea as a Fat Burner

Green tea extract may increase your metabolism and help you burn fat, says the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). A few schools of thought have weighed in when it comes to green tea’s effect on weight, the first being that it’s the caffeine, a known metabolism booster, that helps burn fat. The other is that the catechins in green tea cause you to lose weight. A February 2007 CNN.com report says EGCG may work in tandem with caffeine to increase your metabolism. Purportedly, green tea supplements may burn up to 4 percent more calories daily.

What Experts Say

Mayo Clinic experts are on the fence when it comes to recommending green tea as a weight loss aid, stating that several small clinical trials assessing the efficacy of green tea extract capsules for weight loss or maintenance yielded mixed results. For the purposes of weight loss or maintenance, green tea receives a very average grade of “C.” Information from the University of Michigan Health System indicates that when assessing green tea for weight loss, there is “contradictory, insufficient or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.” More thorough study is needed before green tea can be definitively recommended as a fat burner.

Preparations and Safety

Green tea weight loss supplements are primarily sold in the form of capsules, which contain the dried tea leaf, although liquid preparations are available as well. You can also purchase the dried leaves and leaf buds to brew your own tea. The UMMC indicates that caffeine-free green tea preparations are available. Unless specified to the contrary, green tea products contain caffeine, which may cause sleeplessness, agitation, nausea, diarrhea, frequent urination and stomach upset. Avoid green tea if you’re pregnant or nursing, and don’t give it to children, advises the UMMC. Green tea is not appropriate for people with heart or kidney conditions, stomach conditions and psychological disorders.

Other Cautions and Concerns

Green tea and green tea supplements aren’t a good mix with numerous medications, the UMMC says. These include adenosine, beta-lactam antibiotics, benzodiazepines, beta-blockers, blood-thinning medications, chemotherapy drugs, clozapine, ephedrine, lithium, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), birth control pills and phenylpropanolamine. The University of Michigan Health System cautions that liver damage cases have been associated with green tea weight loss supplements; however, because these pills contained other ingredients, liver damage could not be directly tied to green tea. To be on the safe side, be wary of using large amounts of green tea or taking concentrated extracts.

Talk to Your Doctor

Green tea weight loss products are considered dietary supplements by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They cannot make claims to treat or cure a specific health condition, and they cannot claim to help you burn belly fat. Before using green tea or another dietary supplement to address your health concerns, please speak with your doctor.

About this Author

Lisa Sefcik has been writing professionally since 1987. Her subject matter includes pet care, travel, consumer reviews, classical music and entertainment. She\’s worked as a policy analyst, news reporter and freelance writer/columnist for Cox Publications and numerous national print publications. Sefcik holds a paralegal certification as well as degrees in journalism and piano performance from the University of Texas at Austin.