When it comes to weight loss, it seems like there's always something new that promises to help you shed those pounds. While you might already know that tea has some pretty powerful health benefits, you may be wondering if there's a link between African red tea and weight loss.
There's not a lot of research on it, but it does appear that the caffeine-free tea may help with weight loss, especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle. However, even if red tea doesn't help you shed excess weight, it has tons of other benefits, like protecting your heart, reducing your risk of cancer and balancing your blood sugar levels.
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Red Tea and Weight Loss
African red tea, also called rooibos tea, comes from a limited area in South Africa called the Western Cape. It was first used as a tea hundreds of years ago when habitants of the land took the leaves and stems of the Aspalathus linearis plant and allowed them to become sun-dried and fermented, creating a naturally sweet beverage. Since World War II, African red tea has been sold commercially and exported to several countries worldwide.
As the availability of African red tea grew, so did interest in its health benefits. Although there's not a lot of research on African red tea and weight loss, there was a study published in Phytomedicine in January 2014 that looked at whether the tea could help with obesity.
Researchers from the study reported that drinking red tea could actually help your body use glucose more effectively (reducing your risk of developing insulin resistance) and decrease a physiological process called adipogenesis — which is the scientific term for the creation of new fat cells. The tea also positively affected fat metabolism.
Using this information, the researchers concluded that drinking African red tea may be an effective way to help with obesity. They also noted that the positive effects on weight loss seemed to increase as the tea got stronger. Of course, it's not a magic pill on its own. The best thing to do is combine red tea and a diet that's full of healthy foods.
Read more: Facts About Oolong Tea and Weight Loss
Benefits of African Red Tea
But potential weight loss isn't the only benefit of African red tea. Rooibos is rich in polyphenols and flavonoids, plant compounds that have a wide variety of positive health effects. According to a July 2017 report in the Journal of African Association of Physiological Sciences, one of the major polyphenols in red tea is aspalathin, which is classified as:
In other words, aspalathin can help combat free radicals, reduce your risk of developing diabetes, keep your heart healthy, lower your blood pressure (or maintain healthy blood pressure) and reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Red tea also contains quercetin and luteolin, two flavonoids that have been shown to prevent tumor growth and the spread of certain types of cancers, according to an older report that was published in 2003 by the American Botanical Council.
Best Tea for Weight Loss
While there isn't too much research on whether African red tea can make it easier for you to lose weight, several studies have looked at the slimming effects of green tea.
One of these studies, published in Nutricion Hospitalaria in June 2017, reported that drinking enough green tea to supply you with between 100 and 460 milligrams of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) — the main polyphenol in tea — can help you lose weight (and more specifically, lower your body fat) after a period of 12 weeks.
Another study, published a few years earlier in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in December 2012, reported similar results, but added that the amount of weight lost wasn't really considered significant and that there was no evidence on whether green tea could help you maintain that weight loss.
These differing conclusions may be due to a difference in dosage though. Another study in a February 2017 issue of Clinical Nutrition found that a 12-week treatment with a high dose of EGCG (which was defined as 857 milligrams per day) resulted in a significant weight loss in women with a lot of stomach fat, but that reducing the dose to 360 milligrams of EGCG a day resulted in no positive effect on body weight.
Read more: The Best Green Tea to Lose Weight
A Note on Caffeine
Although the EGCG in green tea gets a lot of the credit for its health and weight-loss benefits, some of that can actually be attributed to its caffeine content.
According to the June 2017 report in Nutricion Hospitalaria, green tea seemed to produce weight-loss effects only when it was combined with 80 to 300 milligrams of caffeine. To put that into perspective, a single 6-ounce cup of brewed tea contains around 60 milligrams of caffeine, while the same-size cup of coffee packs 100 milligrams. African red tea is caffeine-free.
Using this information, you may be able to infer that any caffeinated beverage may help promote weight loss, and you would be right.
A systematic review that was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in October 2018 took a look at past controlled trials that studied caffeine's effect on weight loss and found that increasing your consumption of caffeine may help you lose weight, reduce your body mass index (BMI) and promote the loss of body fat, specifically.
But keep in mind that adding sugar to your tea or coffee (in any form, including honey) can add extra empty calories and negate these weight-loss effects, so the best green tea for weight loss is one that's unsweetened. It's also important to pay attention to the total amount of caffeine you're drinking.
While you may be motivated by the thought of weight loss, too much caffeine can increase your heart rate, cause jitters and anxiety, increase stress hormones and disrupt glucose and insulin levels. Together, these last two factors can actually lead to weight gain.
When it comes to caffeine, some people are more sensitive than others, so the best thing you can do is pay attention to how you feel and scale back if you start to feel jittery or anxious. The Mayo Clinic notes that most adults can tolerate up to 400 milligrams per day (the amount in four 6-ounce cups) without adverse effects.
- American Botanical Council: "Rooibos Tea: Research Into Antioxidant and Antimutagenic Properties"
- Journal of African Association of Physiological Sciences: "Aspalathin, a Unique Phytochemical From the South African Rooibos Plant (Aspalathus linearis): A Mini Review"
- Phytomedicine: "Effects of Fermented Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) on Adipocyte Differentiation"
- Obesity Action Coalition: "'Upper' Limits the Value of Caffeine in Weight-Loss"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "The Effects of Caffeine Intake on Weight Loss: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials"
- Nutricion Hospitalaria: "Effects of Green Tea and Its Epigallocatechin (EGCG) Content on Body Weight and Fat Mass in Humans: A Systematic Review"
- Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Green Tea for Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance in Overweight or Obese Adults"
- Clinical Nutrition: "Green Tea, Weight Loss and Physical Activity"
- Mayo Clinic: "Caffeine: How Much Is Too Much?"
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: "Effects of Consumption of Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and a Rooibos-Derived Commercial Supplement on Hepatic Tissue Injury by Tert-Butyl Hydroperoxide in Wistar Rats"