Ask anyone whether or not they’d like to lessen their body fat with a snap of the fingers and you’ll likely hear a resounding “Yes!” Add to the struggle common concerns about “toxins” we unknowingly ingest or inhale throughout the day, and it’s no wonder the big business detox industry now rivals that of fad diets.
Green tea is the newest super-substance being touted as having miraculous effects for both weight loss and detoxification. While the brew is, indeed, chock-full of mighty molecules that help keep you healthy, hard data proving results may disagree.
So, before you open your wallet to the next green tea brand that promises great results, let’s cut through the marketing hype to look at what’s inside and help you set realistic expectations for green tea’s long-term benefits.
The Power of Green Tea
The potent benefits of green tea cover almost every possible ailment: A Harvard Medical School study found that green tea may help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your blood pressure, help protect against many kinds of cancers (including cancer of the bladder, breast, lung, and prostate), as well as possibly help keep your mood up and your weight down. 
Even in traditional medicine, green tea was recognized as powerful stuff. Used as a stimulant and a diuretic, it could increase energy and help the body get rid of excess fluids. It was also used as a topical astringent to help control bleeding and as a beverage to improve heart health. Other uses of green tea included treating gas, regulating body temperature and blood sugar, promoting digestion, and improving mental processes.
What’s Inside & Why Does It Work?
Researchers think the health-giving properties of green tea are mostly due to polyphenols, chemicals with potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work to reduce the oxidative stress caused by free radicals in our bodies. Too much of which can cause chronic inflammation or even mutate our strands of DNA, which can lead to cancer or other chronic diseases.
In fact, the antioxidant effects of polyphenols seem to be greater than that of vitamin C. The polyphenols in green tea, which give it a somewhat bitter flavor, are classified as catechins. 
Green tea contains six primary catechin compounds: catechin, gallocatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate (also known as EGCG). EGCG is the most studied polyphenol component in green tea, as well as the most active.
Green tea also contains alkaloids including caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. They provide green tea's stimulant effects and also aid in helping the body release excess fluids or water weight (remember the diuretic we talked about earlier?).
How You Can Get Your Green On
Depending on the brand, the average cup of green tea contains 50 - 150 mg polyphenols (antioxidants).
Adults can safely consume two to three cups of green tea per day (for a total of 240 - 320 mg polyphenols). Or if taking supplements, between 100-750 mg per day of a standardized green tea extract is recommended.
The Truth About Green Tea for Weight Loss & Detox
Green tea is seeing a big boost in popularity as some brands promise more than just long-term health benefits. This includes claims of weight loss and detox benefits, which have seen a boost after celebrity mentions on social media, such as Kendall Jenner recently attributing her runway-ready figure to a green tea blend.
Green Tea for Weight Loss
There is data suggesting that green tea can contribute to weight loss: Both caffeine and EGCG are considered bioactive substances that can have powerful effects on your metabolism. 
These active components aid in the fat-burning process by boosting the effects of certain hormones. However, it should be noted that the fat-burning effects of green tea make a minimal difference in your metabolism unless paired with exercise. 
What about claims that green tea can boost your metabolism around the clock?
There is some evidence that an individual consuming an average of 2000 calories a day might see a 3-4% rise in their metabolic burn — a difference of about 60-80 calories.  However, these studies were very short in duration, only one to three days, and provide minimal proof of metabolism boosting effects for the long-term.
Bottom Line on Green Tea for Weight Loss
Even though green tea can mildly increase your metabolism for fat burning, the effects are modest when it comes to actual pounds lost. However, those putting in a genuine effort to achieve their fitness goals know that every little bit adds up. Therefore, increasing your green tea intake might be a helpful addition a well-rounded weight loss strategy.
Of course, let’s not forget that the benefits of green tea go way beyond just body weight. It is also extremely healthy for various other reasons, making it understandable why those seeking a healthier lifestyle would buy into ideas of detoxing.
Green Tea for Detoxing
However, when it comes to detoxification, the wonders of green tea start to fall short. There is no evidence backing claims made by tea companies that their detox teas actually purify human cells.
In fact, the whole idea that you can flush your system of impurities to leave your organs squeaky clean is being heralded as one big scam by some members of the medical community. Calling it a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you stuff, Dr. Edzard Ernst, Professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University, states the following to The Guardian:
“There are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. The respectable one is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions. The other is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.” 
But… What About the Toxins?
Much of the marketing hype behind detox products revolves around the idea that there are harmful substances that wind up in our bodies — yet it’s never made clear what these “toxins” are.
In fact, in 2009 a network of scientists in the UK contacted the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify and asked for evidence behind the claims. Surprisingly, not one of the manufacturers could define what they meant by detoxification, let alone name the toxins. 
“The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak,” Ernst continues. “There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”
Basically, if toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention.
The Science Smackdown on Detoxing
Not only is there no proof that these products work, unregulated detox drinks and dietary supplements can actually be harmful. Physicist Jennifer Lardge is one of many medical professionals who state their concerns in the above mentioned Sense About Science study:
“Some ‘detox’ diets can have disastrous results, as shown in the recent case of the woman who suffered brain damage from a ‘detox’ diet. Often the people selling ‘detox’ products have no professional training and the substances on sale could be untested, potentially dangerous or even toxic.” 
At the end of the day, the SAS authors state, the best way to recover after an over-indulgent night is to get some good rest and down a big glass of water.
A Word of Precaution
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs such as green tea contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications.
For these reasons, those suffering from heart problems or high blood pressure, kidney problems, liver problems, stomach ulcers, and psychological disorders, particularly anxiety, should consult their doctor before adding green tea to their diet. Additionally, it’s recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women also avoid the herb.
Final Thoughts on Green Tea for Weight Loss & Detox
There is no evidence backing the claims made by certain brands that their detox teas actually purify human cells. However, high quality teas may help support the body’s natural daily process of cleansing by helping you stay hydrated and supporting healthy bodily functions. That means green tea lovers may continue to sip away knowing that their beverage of choice does indeed have heart and body healthy benefits.
But those looking to lose extra pounds? Adding a few herbal cups to an existing, healthy diet and fitness regime certainly won’t hurt! But the fact remains that eating a balanced diet and regularly exercising is still the only known way to get into better shape.
- Benefit of drinking green tea: The proof is in – drinking tea is healthy, says Harvard Women’s Health Watch
- Green Tea: Health Benefits and Risks
- Consumption of Green Tea Causes Rapid Increase in Plasma Antioxidant Power in Humans
- Effects of Combination of Regular Exercise and Tea Catechins Intake on Energy Expenditure in Humans
- Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans.
- Edzard Ernst: outspoken professor of complementary medicine
- Sense About Science: Debunking Detox