Natural selection

Here at Cates Nutrition, we’ve never claimed you can’t have too much of a good thing.

Of course, we preach the huge benefits of high T but always warn against taking on more than our systems can handle. Likewise, we encourage you to hit the gym hard and often, but flag up the dangers of pushing too far, too fast. We also review a lot of good fat burners, but no one here has every pitched any quick-fix, magic beans for weight loss.

Purely because something is natural, doesn’t mean it naturally gets an automatic pass. The theories and ingredients we champion have to earn their recommendations and keep earning them.

So with that in mind, the latest natural classic to step into our office for a performance review is green tea.

Green tea has been one of our favorite organic weight loss aids. Yet some now suggest long-term use in high volumes is actively bad for us. With the supposedly offending amounts being similar to those used in a lot of natural supplements, the question is:

Is green tea safe for use as a natural fat burner?

Special brew

First, let’s be ‘cup half full’ and look at why many rate green tea so highly.

Green tea has been used for centuries as part of traditional Chinese medicine, where it originates.  In the years since though, its rep has led to demand over the globe. Unlike many alternative remedies though, the anecdotal benefits of green tea stand up well to modern testing methods, and it has been the subject of many studies.

Green tea is loaded with nutrients. Polyphenols, which calm inflammation and catechins – antioxidants that prevent cell damage. The most powerful catechin and source of green tea’s many health qualities is Epigallocatechin Gallate (ECG)

Even putting fat burning prowess to one side for, clinical trials have shown a number of areas where green tea intake can help. It contains less caffeine than regular tea, and is paired with high amounts of the amino acid l-theanine.

L-theanine triggers the neurotransmitter GABA, which relives anxiety, and raises dopamine, the feel-good hormone.

Relaxed, focused and happy? Eh, fill it up and keep em comin’ please.

Green tea is also incredibly rich in antioxidants, which studies show can significantly lower your chances of developing some cancers. Including 3 of the most common forms.

A 2009 study by the Harvard School of Medicine reports that regular use of green tea saw the risk of breast cancer drop by up to 30%

For men’s most serious concern, prostate cancer, the news is equally promising. According to the National Cancer Centre in Tokyo, men drinking around 5 cups a day lowered their risk by 48%.

A review of 29 studies similarly found that the drinking green tea reduced the risk of colon cancer by 42%.

Drinking green, keeping lean

What green tea is most famous for these days, courtesy of its use in natural supplements, is weight loss. So just why is it in demand for shedding and shredding?

As we’ve said many times in various reviews the key to green tea’s impressive fat burning is those catechins. They stimulate one of the body’s main fat burning hormones, norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine is thermogenic, meaning it raises our core temperature, melting more calories than we would otherwise. Our systems burn more calories still as it works to cool back down.

All this without lifting a finger or even feeling a thing.

A 2007 work out of Thailand on 60 obese men and women found those given green tea regularly lost more body fat after 12 weeks than those on a placebo.

Another Chinese study in 2009 took 158 moderately overweight subjects and gave them either 30mg of green tea catechins or nothing.  At the end of the trial, the tea group saw a marked reduction in overall body fat and waist circumference.

Green tea is particularly effective in targeting excess around the notoriously stubborn midsection.

Green tea can also help with physical performance.

In 1999 The University of Geneva conducted a small study of 10 healthy men. They found that subjects given green tea made up of 50mg caffeine and 90mg EGCG, saw energy output rise by 4% over 24hrs.

Plus in 2008 the University of Birmingham in the UK reported their trial showed when combined with exercise green tea raised fat oxidation by 17%.

Red flag

So what’s the problem then? Why are we even wasting time discussing this when we could be hooking ourselves up to a green tea drip right now? Well, concerns here is not about quality.

The issue appears to be around the quantities people are consuming.

Recently there have been rare examples of green tea use causing serious side effects. For example, the case of 50 year old Jim McCants from Dallas Texas.

Looking to get fit and lose weight in middle age, Jim had read good things about green tea and decided to start taking a supplement. About 2 or 3 months in, despite feeling healthy, his wife noticed his skin and eyes had a yellowish tint. This is a classic sign of jaundice.

Jim went to hospital where he was checked for a liver injury and shockingly was told he would need a transplant.

We weren’t the only ones to sit up and take notice of this. The European Food Safety Authority decided to take another look at a possible upper limit for green tea consumption.

Results show little to no risk from any amount of green tea in beverage form, but high concentrations in some supplements may be problematic. Ironically it’s those same helpful catechins, specifically EGCG, which are the worry for some.

The average daily intake of EGCG for a person drinking green tea is between 90-300mg. Supplements, on the other hand, have a much wider range of 5-1000mg.

EFSA testing settled on a top end of 800mg of EGCG catechins per day to avoid complications.

Weighing things up

Many of the top fat burners we have recommended over the years have contained green tea. They’ve been on the market for years, selling hundreds of thousands of units and not had reports of problems like this.

Are we saying you should ignore this new advice? Absolutely not.

We’re saying the choice is yours, and you should be aware of this research. Most of you are sensible when it comes to what goes in your bodies, so can make an informed choice.

Just a couple of points though.

Firstly, we don’t know what brand of supplement Mr McCants was using. It would be extremely helpful to know this, and to know the quantities he was consuming. [Editor’s Note: I’m no conspiracy theorist but am I the only one who finds it slightly suspicious this crucial information hasn’t been included in any of the articles about this story?].

Secondly, this is interesting from Prof Herbert Bonkovsky, director of liver services at Wake Forest University School of Medicine;

“Usually people are taking these green tea extracts trying to lose weight, so they’re often not eating. We know from animal studies that fasted animals absorb a much higher percentage of the catechins than do fat animals.”

It’s a great point. They’re called supplements for a reason.

Supplements are NOT a replacement for food. Reducing calorie intake is one thing, fasting is another.

Lastly, fat burners aren’t typically used like vitamins. They work best in the short term to help reach a goal. Once you get there, you can maintain it with diet and exercise.

If you haven’t tried supplements before but are still keen, our advice is:

  • Do your research before buying
  • Modify your diet but keep it well balanced
  • Only use a fat burner for as long as you need it
  • Stop if you’re having any side effects

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