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Is green tea good for weight loss? Human and animal research points to a resounding “sort of.” What this means:
There’s evidence that green tea can help you lose weight
A number of small but respectable clinical studies found that overweight people who had green tea— either in drinkable form or in extract form — lost more weight than those who had none. There are also a few studies, science being science, that showed no benefit from green tea drinks or supplements. Overall, “I’d say it can help modestly,” says Cleveland Clinic consultant Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D.N., for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine.
In studies that found a weight-loss benefit in green tea, a “weight-loss trend” or “significantly” more tea drinkers lost. Usually, however, it is not a total transformation. For example, a small study at Oklahoma State University found that people who drank green tea or took green tea extract on top of their diets lost about 1.3 pounds more than people who drank water over 8 weeks. Even decaf green tea may have a benefit in some studies.
Green tea may even help you lose belly fat
An older study found that those who drank a drink with the most biologically active compounds in green tea, called catechins, had a higher percentage change in abdominal fat among people who ate regularly and exercised 180 minutes a week than those who drank a drink without catechins.
Why it might work
There are a number of theories as to why green tea— especially the main catechin called epigallocatechin gallate — can help you out a bit if you’re looking for weight loss.
“It is possible that catechins in green tea can actually inhibit the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates,” says Kirkpatrick, citing a report in the journal Scientific Reports that showed lower carb absorption after people dropped a green tea extract.
“I think some of the most promising are looking at the effects of green tea on the microbiome,” she says. Research is increasingly finding it alters the microbiome of the gut, and these changes may be what makes it useful to drop pounds.
Matcha may help, too
Kirkpatrick receives from her clients a lot of questions as to whether trendy matcha is as helpful as green tea. “Matcha alone hasn’t been a ton of studies,” she says. But adds that it is reasonable to think it is just as useful as green tea comes from the plant’s leaves, and matcha is made from ground-up plants.
While numerous studies have examined green tea extracts, Kirkpatrick urges people to get their green tea from the actual tea itself; “in as much as possible.”
It’s not just about weight loss
There’s more reason to drink green tea than weight. Kirkpatrick points out the “impressive advantages of green tea and cancer prevention,” and then the green stuff includes heart benefits, potential memory benefits and other health boosters.
“So multifaceted is weight loss; green tea will not guarantee weight loss,” says Kirkpatrick. But as long as: you don’t get a sugar-up version of the stuff; green tea doesn’t interfere with any medicines you’re taking; and you’re not looking for it to be a panacea with weight-loss, then go ahead and drink.