Oolong tea is receiving lots of publicity as a dieting aid. You can find websites that claim that oolong tea "melts away body fat like magic." Amazing! Is it true?

Scientific studies have established that tea is high in health-promoting polyphenols that protect us against cancer and other diseases. Oolong tea is particularly high in "polymerized polyphenols" which according to a 2003 Japanese study helps to increase energy expenditure (Oolong tea increases energy metabolism in Japanese females).

This study found that energy expenditure increased by 10% for a period of 2 hours after drinking oolong tea. This was significantly higher than the energy expenditure observed after drinking green tea.

True or False

Is a 10% increase of energy expenditure enough to "melt away the pounds?" I don't think so. I think that many if not most of the claims for oolong tea as a diet aid are false.

Here's what one popular website says about oolong tea:

Legitimate scientific research, published in the world's leading academic journals, is now showing that an extraordinarily rare oolong tea produced at Mt. Wu Yi Shan in China's Fujian Province may carry remarkable slimming and health benefits... so much so that Chinese scientists are calling it, "The world's most powerful fat burner."

Ahhh - where to start?

  • "Legitimate scientific research"? - It's satisfying to know they haven't used illegitimate research.

  • "The world's leading academic journals?" - A search on Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com) for "wuyi oolong fat" brings up one listing - a book called "Tea: Bioactive and Therapeutic Potential"

  • "Extraordinarily rare"? - Most tea vendors with a variety of world teas sell Mt Wu Yi oolong.

This particular website includes testimonials from people who have lost "7 pounds in one week." Another women says "I went from 300 pounds down to 250 pounds without exercising!"

Is this possible?

As a long-time consumer of oolong tea I can say with some confidence that these claims are false. Oolong tea is NOT a magic solution for obesity.

I live in Taiwan where oolong tea is part of the culture. The standard greeting to anyone visiting your home is "Please come in and have some tea." Most of my friends and associates drink oolong tea - the majority are slim but some are fat. The slim Asian physique that many Americans admire has more to do with the low-fat diet than with drinking oolong tea.

I have been drinking oolong tea all my life and it has been part of my daily regime for more than 8 years. Sometimes I gain weight and sometimes I lose weight. Why? Because sometimes I eat more and exercise less and sometimes I eat less and exercise more.

Oolong tea has important health benefits and it can be used as one part of a weight-loss regime, but expecting to lose weight "magically" without exercising or changing your eating habits is unrealistic.

Beware of Diet Teas

Some products which are sold as "Diet Tea" contain herbs which cause diarrhea. Drinking this tea can result in rapid weight loss but can also be very dangerous. Several deaths have been associated with this type of tea.

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Mai Tien Ming is a tea reseacher living in Taiwan

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