While black tea and green tea are very similar, the difference between the two lies in how the tea leaves are fermented and processed. Black tea leaves are exposed to air and then are dried and processed. Green tea leaves are steamed or baked right after picking. This processing method has the effect of giving green tea its unique color and is the key to retaining the compound responsible for stimulating weight loss.
The vital compound contained in green tea is a catechin polyphenol antioxidant called epigallacatechin gallate, otherwise known as EGCG for short. This compound has three notable positive effects on the metabolism process: it activates an enzyme that dissolves excess triglycerides, stimulates the central nervous system to release fat into the blood stream to be used as fuel, and stimulates the liver and muscle cells to convert fatty acids into energy.
All foods, including sugars and fats, are ultimately synthesized into triglycerides which are essential to life support and for fueling physical activity. Any excess levels of triglycerides, however, are turned into fat. Excessive triglycerides and excessive fat tissue can ultimately lead to obesity, a serious health risk factor that contributes toward many debilitating diseases. The EGCG in green tea has the remarkable ability to short-circuit this cycle by dissolving excess triglycerides. In the long run, the effect is that green tea aids in the burning of fat.
Before fat can be burned as fuel, it first has to be released into the blood stream. The EGCG in green tea, along with the caffeine found in green tea, have been found to stimulate the central nervous system to release fat into the blood stream for the body to use as fuel. The process of the body using fat for energy is commonly referred to as “thermogenesis”. The net effect of the combination of the EGCG and caffeine stimulating the central nervous system to release fat into the blood stream is expediting the body’s release of fat, shedding excess water and providing more energy. Of note: while researchers found that caffeine alone can stimulate metabolism in this way, they found that EGCG combined with caffeine was far more effective than just caffeine alone.
Not only does EGCG stimulate the release of fat into the blood stream to be used as fuel, it also stimulates the liver and muscle cells to convert fatty acids into energy. It appears that the EGCG causes the liver and muscle cells to “default” to choose fat to burn rather than carbohydrates. This, in effect, reduces the rate that carbohydrates are used as quick energy and increases the amount of fat that is burned instead. In turn, this has the effect of increasing endurance, exercise time and muscle development. Ultimately, this chain reaction leads to more calories burned.
The results of several animal studies are quite revealing. In one study, lab mice of approximately similar age and weight were divided into five groups. Three groups received varying levels of exercise with no green tea extract, one group received green tea extract with no exercise, and the last group received green tea extract with exercise. The notable result was that the group doing no exercise but taking green tea extract reduced body weight gain by 47 percent. Even more notable was that the group taking green tea extract and exercising reduced body weight gain by a stunning 89 percent.
In another study completed in 2004, mice were purposely fed diets very high in fat with the goal of producing visceral fat. The goal of the study was to see if green tea could have a positive effect on reducing visceral fat, which has been found to be a very harmful form of fat that is a precursor to metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes. For 16 weeks the mice were fed diets containing 2 per cent green tea brand, and their visceral fat decreased by an incredible 76.8 percent.
A third study yielded similarly remarkable results with regard to increased energy and endurance. Using green tea extract on lab rats increased the amount of time the animals could swim before getting exhausted. In fact, the time before getting exhausted increased by a full 24 percent, which resulted in overall faster weight loss.
As far as human studies, a study in Switzerland found that just drinking the equivalent of two to three cups of green tea a day resulted in burning of 80 extra calories per day with no increase of heart rate by adding exercise. The calculation also factored out the influence of the caffeine found in green tea. Just by adding a couple of cups a day of green tea to one’s diet equates to the loss of over eight pounds in the course of a year. It has also been found that drinking three to six cups of green tea daily has no adverse side effects on health and wellbeing. What this means is that green tea is an ideal weight maintenance beverage.
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Other studies show that those who are heavy caffeine consumers do not reap the weight loss results that those who are low caffeine consumers do. To be effective for weight loss, green tea has to be paired with caffeine, but not an excessive amount of caffeine. If sweetened tea is preferred, it’s recommended that the natural herbal sweetener stevia be used since study after study proves stevia to have no harmful health effects, unlike artificial sweeteners, and sugar or honey defeat the positive effects of the green tea. As a gauge, since green tea has half the amount of caffeine as coffee, three to six cups of green tea will contain the same amount of caffeine as one and a half to three cups of coffee. More precisely, a 2009 American Institute of Nutrition study showed that 39 mg of caffeine is the optimum caffeine level for losing weight with green tea.