Oolong Tea for Weight Loss: Does It Work?
What is oolong tea?
Oolong tea is a traditional black Chinese tea. In the Chinese tea culture, oolong teas are known, collectively as qīngchá which translates to ‘blue-green tea.’There are many sub-varieties, thus the taste varies depending upon the horticulture and the style of production/processing method. Flavor can range from sweet and fruity with a touch of honey to strong, woody and ‘roasted.’ Generally, recommendations are to use 3 grams of oolong tea per 200 ml of water or about two teaspoons per cup with a steeping time of 3 to 10 minutes.
What are the possible health benefits of drinking oolong tea?
Oolong tea is touted to offer many health benefits such as prolonging life span, enhancing vitality, lowering high blood pressure, preventing tooth decay (strengthening tooth enamel) relieving mental and physical stress and treating minor skin problems and irritations. Oolong tea is most well known as actively contributing to weight loss or helping to prevent obesity as a thermogenic agent. Thermogenic agents are substances that tend to produce heat through stimulating your resting (basal) metabolic rate.
Is there scientific proof or evidence that oolong tea helps burn fat and acts as an anti-obesity agent?
Oolong tea supplementation may offer some anti-obesity benefits for individuals that are overweight/ obese from consuming a diet too high in calories. Of the few research studies available, the most promising was published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine in February 2009. Researchers examined the effect of oolong tea supplementation on 102 diet-induced overweight/obese individuals. For 6 weeks, these study participants were given a total of 8 g of oolong tea daily (about 2.5 cups). At the beginning of the study, the subjects’ height, body weight, body fat level and waist measurements were taken. Researchers also monitored blood triglyceride (TG) and total cholesterol (TC) levels.
While dietary changes (if any) were not specified, over the 6 week period, approximately 70% of the severely obese subjects enjoyed a loss of more than 1 kilogram (kg) or 2.2 lbs including 22% that lost more than 3 kg (6.6 lbs). About 64% of the obese and 66% of the overweight participants lost more than 1 kg (2.2 lbs). Body fat decreased significantly in 12% of the subjects. The body fat loss was much more pronounced in women. Body weight loss/fat loss was correlated to a smaller waist measurement in both men and women. Most interesting was the change in blood cholesterol levels. Those with elevated triglycerides and total cholesterol levels (hyperlipidemia) saw a significant decrease in these levels after ingesting the oolong tea for 6 weeks.
According to an article published in the International Journal of Obesity in April 2010, oolong tea is one of many thermogenic agents or substances that act as tools for managing obesity. Other thermogenic agents include caffeine, capsaicin (found in hot chili peppers) and green and white teas. On average, these substances may increase energy (calorie) expenditure by 4 to 5%, fat burning by 10 to 16% and counteract the decrease in Resting Metabolic Rate that occurs during diet restriction and weight loss. However, there is a great deal of variability in the population in terms of body weight regulation and metabolism. Certain conditions need to be met before these agents can yield any effect on weight loss or burning of body fat.
Specifically, does oolong tea work for burning fat and weight loss?
Conclusions from the Chinese research study indicated that supplementing your diet with at least 8 g of oolong tea daily may decrease body fat content and body weight through its mechanism of improving lipid (fat) metabolism. Over time, regular consumption of oolong tea may help prevent obesity. However, this study was conducted on a limited number of participants (102) that suffered from diet-induced overweight/obesity (as opposed to other causes). For oolong tea, specifically, the research available is limited, especially that involving human subjects. While drinking oolong tea is not harmful and may offer some health benefits, the research tying green tea to weight loss and fat oxidation is more substantial and conclusive.
- RR He et al. Beneficial effects of oolong tea consumption on diet-induced overweight and obese subjects. Chin J Integr Med. 2009 Feb;15(1):34-41.
- R Hursel et al. Thermogenic ingredients and body weight regulation. Int J Obes (London). 2010 Apr;34(4):659-69.