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Is Green Tea the Key to Burning Fat? [Body Blog]


Maybe not. Sorry to disappoint if you’ve been stocking up on green tea extract, but that money may have been wasted. It’s one of the most popular workout supplements on the market, and a quick Google search reveals dozens of articles explaining the benefits of green tea’s “incredible polyphenols.” But a new study suggests that green tea might not improve the body’s fat burning processes at all.

Green tea has been linked to numerous health benefits, including the potential to fight cancer and heart disease. The claims that green tea is a magical fat burner first appeared in 2005, when a study showed that people who drank a bottle of tea fortified with green tea extract every day for three months lost more body fat than subjects who drank a different type of tea. The subjects – all Japanese men – were restricted to a similar diet and had similar BMIs at the start of the study.

Green tea contains a compound called EGCG, which is a catechin, a type of antioxidant naturally occurring in plants. Antioxidants help reduce the level of free radicals in the body. Free radicals can cause cell death and damage. Scientists in the 2005 study thought that EGCG might help burn calories and lower LDL (known as “bad”) cholesterol, and possibly help the body burn fat. But a newer report claims that this green tea antioxidant has no significant effect on weight loss in adults.

The report, a review of twelve different randomized controlled trials, concluded that drinking green tea does not stimulate weight loss. Even green tea extracts, with more highly concentrated levels of EGCG, don’t seem to spur fat burning miracles.

Another recent study was conducted much like the one from 2005. All the participants were male, and were put on similar diets. The subjects went through exercise trials at the start and end of the week. The intensity of the exercise was geared to levels known to produce optimal fat burning effects. Throughout the week, some men drank green tea extract and others drank a placebo. Researchers did extensive testing throughout the study, including taking blood samples, but found that the green tea extract did not improve fat oxidation.

Of course, many of the people who swear by green tea extract are distance runners and bodybuilders. No major green tea studies have been done in athletes, so there’s a chance green tea’s antioxidants might provide some exercise boosts. But for now, you can probably stop shilling out cash for green tea supplements. A cup or two now and then never hurt, though.

Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. She is “that person” who starts dancing at a party when everyone else is standing around, and if there were a Facebook stalking Olympics, she would be a gold medalist. She also loves cheesy 90s music, and almost died of happiness when Vanilla Ice retweeted her. Once. Follow her on Twitter @garnethenderson.

Dancer, choreographer, personal trainer, and freelance writer based in New York City. More here.