Most of us have seen the headlines: Green tea blasts away fat! But before you start bonging gallons of the Eastern cure-all, understand that green tea won’t magically melt away the pounds.
Take a close look at one recent study: Scientists at Unilever—ahem, that’s the company that owns Lipton—split 83 overweight but otherwise healthy men into two groups. One group took capsules of green tea extract, while the other took a placebo.
After six weeks, the green tea group dropped an average of 1.5 pounds, while the placebo group gained 1 pound. Those results aren’t exactly staggering.
Another important point: The study involved only sedentary, middle-aged men. That could explain why other research has produced conflicting results about green tea’s weight-zapping benefits.
Don’t get us wrong; green tea is a healthy alternative to energy drinks or soda. The leafy liquid contains catechins—natural antioxidants that studies show promote fat oxidation and nutrient absorption by activating specific protein pathways. Previous studies have also shown the brew can lower your risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer.
But here’s another catch: The guys in the Unilever study swallowed 530 milligrams of the extract every day. That means you’d have to down roughly 50 ounces—or about 6 cups—of the liquid variety to see the same benefits! (Did we mention walking to and from the bathroom could also help you lose weight?)
Of course, there’s a supplement. Two pills a day could net you the same benefits as the men in the study. (The Vitamin Shoppe offers an inexpensive option.) But let’s put this all in perspective: A 1-pound weight loss after 6 weeks might be better than a 1-pound weight gain. But it’s not going to make up for poor eating habits and a lack of exercise.
The bottom line is that green tea offers a variety of health benefits—within modest limits. For brewed tea done right, pour 8 ounces of near-boiling water over 1 teaspoon of tea leaves, and steep for 30 seconds. Then go for a jog. (And while you’re out there, remember varying your speed can help you burn three times as much fat as running at a steady pace. Try this interval workout that takes only 10 minutes.)