You’ve heard them many times before, maybe even uttered from your own lips. Those New Year’s Resolutions roll off our tongues like so much saliva. It’s certainly easy to say, but not so easy to follow through on.

The past few years have seen more and more reports about the weight reducing properties of green tea and, increasingly, people are drinking more tea for that purpose. But does green tea really help to shed those unwanted pounds? I thought I would take a look at the research to help clarify whether or not green tea really does make a difference with weight loss.

The good news, for you weight loss invoking New Years Resolution people: tea does have real physiological effects on weight loss and maintenance. There appear to be numerous factors involved that research continues to attempt to tease out. Tea, especially the less oxidized teas like white, green, yellow and even oolong, appear to have an advantage in the fight against weight gain. It provides the dynamic duo of caffeine and catechins (EGCG in particular). Each offers different mechanisms by which they impact weight but also appear to have an even more powerful synergistic effect to help us maintain a healthy weight.

Some of the primary mechanisms by which it works are as follows:

1. Thermogenisis – the caffeine inhibits the enzymatic breakdown of cyclic AMP, which is a source of energy creation in the body (from ATP) involved in protein, sugar and fat metabolism, and the EGCG inhibits the enzymatic breakdown of norepinephrine which is a neurotransmitter involved in Sympathetic Nervous System arousal (it also effects mood).
2. Lipolysis – acceleration of the breakdown of fat in the body.
3. Suppressing effect on Leptin – Leptin (the presence of which, paradoxically, signals reduced appetite) has an activating effect on angiogenesis (the creation of new blood vessels) which also appears to be linked to increasing fat cells (adipogenesis). Catechins have an inhibiting effect on Leptin creating an antiangiogenesis effect (reduces vascularization) which subsequently also reduces fat cells.

Keep in mind that the factors stated above seem to be the primary mechanisms currently being discovered, but researchers still don’t know a lot. Because of the richness of the phytochemical constituents in the Camellia sinensis plant, I am confident that they will continue to discover new mechanisms involved in addition to further clarifying existing ones. It is also important to keep in mind that much of the research has and is being done on rats as well as the use of concentrated extracts (rats and humans) which are often in much higher concentrations than a human would normally consume. In addition, it appears that these effects work best for modestly overweight or normal weight people, and not as well for obese individuals. Although I am now more convinced than ever of the real physiological effects that tea has on metabolism and weight, it remains unclear to me (and to much of the scientific community as well) exactly how much of an impact it has and how much tea must be consumed in order to have these effects. Therefore, my recommendations for your New Years Resolution is to drink as much tea as you would enjoy everyday as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. This way you can enjoy all of the wonderful life enhancing qualities that tea provides, including being one part of a healthy weight maintenance plan. Happy New Year.

p.s. For a look at a truly drastic weight loss diet with tea, read this article I wrote a while back.

[ photo credits: post main image by Anna.Hawaii at www.flickr.com; green tea image by News-Medical at www.news-medical.net ]