Tea is quickly becoming the hot beverage of choice, thanks to its myriad health benefits. One growing trend is the use of 'teatoxes,' a blended version of tea and herbs to lose weight, boost your metabolism and detox the body. Despite their popularity, however, health experts question whether these teas are truly steeped in science.
According to Wendy Romig, a clinical nutritionist/herbalist and founder of Sage Integrative Health Center, green tea contains antioxidants and other phytochemicals, which studies show reduce inflammation in the body.
"It also offers benefit for conditions like cancer, diabetes, though the effects on weight loss are less concrete and still being researched," Romig explained.
Barberry, a plant commonly found in these products, increases liver function, which can aid in weight loss.
"It helps with metabolizing fats as well as storing glucose," Romig said.
Dandelion or artichoke leaf can aid in digestion.
Romig says teas such as green, oolong, rooibos, dandelion, etc. are all fine to drink in moderation within a healthy diet and exercise plan but should not be considered the primary weight loss strategy.
"Or even the secondary strategy," she added.
As an herbalist and clinical nutritionist, Romig use medicinal teas as a small portion of the overall strategy for weight loss.
"The targeted activity of the herbs I select for the teas depend on the person's imbalances," she said. "For example, I may have a client who has poor digestion, so I will blend a tea with digestive aids. Another client may have uncontrolled blood sugar levels which often leads to weight gain."
So what really goes into these "weight-loss teas" and are they too good to be true?
Social media endorsements from celebrities and models make 'teatoxes' seem like a magical potion that can help you achieve "the perfect' body". Teami Blends, Fit Tea and Bootea are a few of the companies that offer their own version of detox tea.
According to the company website, Teami Blends recommends their Skinny Tea in the morning to "wake up your body and boost the metabolism" and the Colon Detox tea right before bed every other day to cleanse your body of unwanted toxins.
Teami Skinny Tea is a blend of Oolong, Yerba Mate, Lime leaf extract, Lotus leaf, Ginger root, Dandelion leaf and Rhubarb Root.
A search of their website does not include any scientific research on the safety and efficacy of their products. However, it does include a caution for anyone who is pregnant, nursing or taking prescription medication to consult a health care provider before trying the tea. And, of course, results are "not guaranteed" and "may vary from person to person."
When asked about the science behind her products, Adi Halevy, owner of Teami Blends, referred us to the hundreds of reviews on its website and pointed out that "studies for tea can be found in thousands of places on the internet as well."
Fit Tea, which has garnered celebrity endorsements from the Kardashians, did not respond to our inquiry for research.
Experts remain skeptical
Annie Courto, a registered dietitian with OnPoint Nutrition, does not recommend these teas to her clients. "In general, it is usually a quick fix and they are not FDA regulated," Courto said.
But how do you explain the reviews claiming great results?
Courto believes some users my experience water weight loss because the teas contain a laxative.
According to Kristan Delle, a nutritionist and registered dietitian in Bensalem, "these products are marketed to tell us exactly what we want to hear: A quick, easy fix that will result in significant weight loss and many more unsubstantiated promises."
It is not just a concern over wasting money on a product that does not live up to its hype, however. Romig said there are health concerns like the over-use of laxatives (the Senna leaf) and stimulants (Guarana). Plus, using laxatives as part of a weight loss program poses potential risks of nutrient deficiencies and imbalances in the gut flora.
Additionally, Bootea's 'teatox' was under fire last year by customers who became pregnant while on the tea, despite being on birth control.
"Any herbs that increase liver function and speed up digestion/elimination are also potentially causing the body to clear medications out faster, thereby reducing the potency of that particular drug, whether it's birth control or a statin," Romig said.
So what is the best way to lose weight?
"The easy answer is – eat appropriate amounts of nutrient-rich foods, decrease your added sugar and sodium intake and get moving," Delle said.
Knowing however that it isn't always that easy, she also suggests seeking the support of a registered dietitian or registered dietitian nutritionist to help you with your long-term weight loss goals.