You’ve seen so-called weight-loss and detox teas on health food shelves and online—you know, drinks that promise to boost your metabolism , kill cravings, detoxify you, and help you drop pounds. They’re marketed under different names, but the overarching promise is the same: Drink this tea, and you’ll lose weight and even have a cleaner system, to boot.
It sounds too good to be true, and experts say it is. “At best, they’re a waste of your money, and at worst, they’re dangerous,” Jessica Cording , a New York-based R.D., tells SELF. Karen Ansel , M.S., R.D.N., co-author of Healthy in a Hurry: Easy, Good-For-You Recipes for Every Meal of the Day , agrees, telling SELF that these teas are “just a gimmick.” Because here's the truth about weight loss: There is no magic bullet. Health and weight loss look different for every person. If you want to lose weight, what works for you might not work for others, and vice versa.
If you're tempted to try one of these teas that claim to bring about weight loss, it’s incredibly important to think about why you want to lose weight in the first place—and whether doing so is a healthy decision that will enrich your life. For example, if you have a history of disordered eating, you should talk to your doctor before starting a new eating plan. Even if you don't have that history, setting healthy, realistic goals and expectations is key. So is making decisions based on health and science, not the marketing for Instagram-famous beverages. But even if these teas did work in some way, when it comes down to it, weight loss is about a lot more than what you eat and drink. It’s important to factor in whether you’re getting quality sleep and trying to keep your stress levels down, plus elements outside of your control, like health conditions and hormones. The most important tip we can give you is to pay attention to your body, treat yourself well, and be kind to yourself above all, which is why you shouldn't try quick fixes that could ultimately harm you. With that said, here's the deal on tea and weight loss.
“Tea does contain compounds such as polyphenols and caffeine, which [may slightly increase] metabolism, but this boost isn’t enough to have a meaningful impact on body weight,” she says. “If it did, these tea manufacturers would be raking in millions and millions of dollars.” Plus, so-called weight-loss teas often contain added ingredients that don't have the health-promoting benefits of pure tea and may not be safe, like various stimulants.
Some teas—you may have seen them all over Instagram—also guarantee to detoxify you, which Ansel says is bogus. "Any tea that claims to detoxify your system is pure hype," she says. "Your body has its own built-in detoxication system that works 24/7—your liver, which dismantles toxins, and your kidneys, which flush out these waste products." There’s nothing in tea (or any other food product) that can detoxify you, she adds. In reality, these teas may just make you hit the bathroom more often, giving the illusion of detoxification. First of all, caffeine in general can make you poop . But some of these teas have extra laxative effects due to senna, a natural medicine that irritates the lining of your bowel, Ansel says. However, not all uses of senna are FDA-approved, and laxatives aren't a smart—or safe—method of losing weight .
These kinds of questions even abound when it comes to regular teas. Some green tea manufacturers promise that their products will ramp up your metabolism, while some oolong teas say they can burn fat , and some rooibos teas claim to lower your appetite.
The majority of research on tea and weight loss has been conducted on green tea, and it’s believed that its combination of caffeine and polyphenols may have a small impact on metabolism, Ansel says. However, Cording points out that the effect is basically negligible. “Drinking green tea for a short period of time to lose weight will likely not result in noticeable weight loss,” she says. An often-cited 2009 meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Obesity found that green tea had a “small positive effect” on weight loss and weight maintenance, but researchers said their conclusions “should be treated with caution” since they weren’t able to prove that green tea actually caused the weight loss—just that there was a link. However, not all studies have been able to prove a link, leading many researcher to say green tea’s impact on weight loss is “inconclusive.”
That’s not to say drinking green tea doesn’t have its perks—it just won't help you lose weight the way a healthy diet and regular exercise will. Cording points out that green tea can provide other health benefits thanks to its high level of polyphenols (such as flavonoids and catechins), which have been studied for their antioxidant activity.
Oolong tea is rumored to have some weight-loss benefits, but Ansel says there hasn’t been much evidence to back this up. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013 found that oolong and other teas didn’t have a clinically meaningful outcome on weight loss. As for roobois tea, Ansel says it hasn’t been studied as much as other varieties, "but there’s no convincing evidence that it has any real impact on appetite.”
However, she points out, all types of tea may help control your appetite indirectly by providing calorie-free fluids. “Drinking water can help you [eat more mindfully], so it makes complete sense that filling up on tea would have the same benefit,” she says.
If weight loss is a goal of yours, Cording recommends you evaluate your diet and exercise habits instead of turning to drinks that promise to help you lose weight or detox you. “Assess whether you would benefit from dietary changes or integrating more physical activity,” she says. Changing those factors should get you much further than a weight-loss or detox tea.
You may also like: How to Make A Healthy Kale Mason Jar Salad