More than 80 percent of all tea consumed in the United States is black tea. Black tea is packed with nutrients that are slightly different from those in green and white teas but -- like green tea -- black tea is linked to weight loss. You’ll get the same benefits from caffeine in both types of tea. And unique black tea flavonoids show promise that help you drop extra pounds. But you'll get the biggest impact by using black tea to replace high-calorie beverages.
Black Tea Flavonoids Support Weight Loss
A group of plant-based antioxidants called flavonoids, or polyphenols, are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with tea. All types of tea are made from the same plant leaves, which contain a group of flavonoids called catechins. In green tea, the primary flavonoids are catechins. When the leaves are further processed to produce black tea, the catechins form new flavonoids called theaflavins and thearubigins. Black tea may retain a small amount of catechins, but its health benefits come from the new flavonoids.
Research published so far suggests that black tea has the potential to support weight loss. The digestive enzyme lipase is inhibited in laboratory animals that consume black tea flavonoids. Since fats aren’t digested without lipase, some dietary fats are eliminated from the body rather than absorbed. When lab mice were fed a high-fat diet, the animals receiving a higher dose of black tea polyphenols lost more weight than the group that got fewer polyphenols, reported Nutrition in 2011.
Researchers also reported that energy expenditure -- or calories burned -- significantly increased after laboratory mice received a dose of theaflavins from black tea, according to PLoS One in September 2015. The studies published so far are promising, but they've only used lab animals. More research is needed in people to determine black tea’s impact on weight loss.
Caffeine Boosts Metabolism to Lose Weight
When you drink a cup of regular black tea, you’ll get 30 to 80 milligrams of caffeine. It only takes about 50 milligrams of caffeine to increase the amount of energy your body uses while at rest, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009. While there’s no way to determine the exact effect on body weight, caffeine increased basal metabolism by 6 percent in the 12 study participants. Caffeine also promotes lipolysis -- the breakdown of stored fat -- and it stimulates cycles that metabolize fats.
Caffeine may help keep weight off for a longer period of time. Out of 2,000 people surveyed, nearly 500 people reported that they successfully lost weight and kept it off. The smaller group consumed significantly more coffee and caffeinated beverages compared to the other participants, reported the European Journal of Nutrition in November 2015. However, this survey only implies an association; it does not prove that drinking more caffeine caused the positive outcome.
MedlinePlus notes that most people can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, which is 5 to 13 cups of black tea. Be aware that most products don’t report the amount of caffeine per cup, so you won’t know whether your tea is at the low or high end. People who are more sensitive to caffeine and those who have an irregular heart rhythm, high blood pressure or excess stress, may need to consume less than that recommended by the general intake guidelines.
Black Tea Reduces Calorie Consumption
Beyond the potential benefits of polyphenols and caffeine, black tea will help you lose weight if you use it as a replacement for high-calorie beverages. One cup of black tea only has 2 calories. Even if you add a teaspoon of honey, it still only has 23 calories. If you drink any type of sweetened beverage, switching it with black tea eliminates a significant number of calories. One cup of sweetened cola has 103 calories, but remember that a can of soda contains 12 ounces, which adds another 52 calories. And if you get a large soda at the local fast-food restaurant, you’ll consume 413 calories, reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Drinking water before a meal promotes a feeling of fullness, which helps some people eat less. Two studies published in the journal Obesity -- one in 2010 and the second in 2015 -- found that subjects who drank hot or cold water before a meal lost more weight, compared to participants who didn’t drink any beverages. You’ll also temporarily burn a few additional calories as the body metabolizes water. Even though these studies only used plain water, drinking a cup of tea may deliver similar benefits.
Chinese Black Tea Promotes Fat Loss
Black tea got its name because the tea leaves turn black during the oxidation process that develops new flavonoids. When it’s brewed, black tea develops a reddish color, which is why it’s called red tea in China. Chinese black tea, or pu-erh tea, is different from black tea in the United States. Just like green tea and black tea, pu-erh tea is made from the same tea leaves, but the leaves are fermented by microorganisms and aged over an extended period of time. As a result, pu-erh tea has a unique flavor and contains flavonoids called theabrownins and gallic acid.
Researchers found that study participants who drank pu-erh tea extract lost more weight and abdominal fat than the group that didn’t drink tea, reported Nutrition Research in June 2011. But this study only had 36 subjects, so their results may not apply to other people. In lab mice, oolong, black and pu-erh teas -- especially black tea -- promoted weight loss and significantly decreased visceral fat, according to Food and Function in 2014.
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Tea
- Nutrition: Prevention of Diet-Induced Obesity by Dietary Black Tea Polyphenols Extract In Vitro and In Vivo
- PLoS One: A Single Oral Administration of Theaflavins Increases Energy Expenditure and the Expression of Metabolic Genes
- Center for Science in the Public Interest: Caffeine Content of Food and Drugs
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The Effect of Caffeine, Green Tea and Tyrosine on Thermogenesis and Energy Intake
- International Journal of Obesity: Thermogenic Ingredients and Body Weight Regulation
- European Journal of Nutrition: Caffeine Intake Is Related to Successful Weight Loss Maintenance
- MedlinePlus: Caffeine in Diet
- Nutrition Research: Improvements of Mean Body Mass Index and Body Weight in Preobese and Overweight Japanese Adults With Black Chinese Tea (Pu-erh) Water Extract
- Food and Function: Oolong, Black and Pu-erh Tea Suppresses Adiposity in Mice via Activation of AMP-Activated Protein Kinase