Weight loss teas are said to burn fat, beat bloating and 'detox' the body. We examine the facts behind the claims and assess the real impact on your health.
Weight loss and ‘detox’ teas have gained popularity in the dieting world, promising to ‘cleanse’ the body, increase energy, reduce bloating and promote weight loss. We take a look at how these teas work, whether there is any science to back up their supposed health benefits and whether there are risks to drinking them…
What is a teatox diet?
These diet plans involve drinking particular blends of herbal teas at certain times of day. Some plans will advise you to change your eating patterns, while others simply advise drinking the teas in addition to your normal diet.
Certain products contain ingredients in the tea bags, such as senna, which have a laxative effect, increasing the frequency of bowel movements. Many of the plans on the market have two bags, one to be taken in the morning and one to be taken at night. In some cases, the daytime tea bag is an energising herbal tea, whereas the night-time tea bag contains the laxative.
We asked Kerry Torrens for her view…
Can tea really help me to lose weight?
There is currently no scientific evidence to support the use of these products for weight loss. There is no reliable evidence to suggest that herbal teas and their ingredients, including those which have a diuretic or laxative effect, can aid fat loss, fat burning or prevent calorie absorption. It is likely that you may lose weight in the form of water, especially if there is an eating plan recommended. However, this weight will almost certainly be regained when you finish the programme and return to eating normally.
Can tea help me to detox?
Our bodies have an in-built detox system which includes the liver, kidneys and gut. You do not need to follow a specific detox regime or drink a specific tea to kickstart the detox process – your body is constantly working hard to do this for you, on an ongoing basis.
Are weight loss teas safe?
Some of these products contain ingredients, like senna, which have a laxative effect and stimulate a bowel movement. They may also include ingredients which act as a diuretic and promote the production of urine. Ongoing and abnormal loss of fluids may lead to dehydration and potentially cause you to lose valuable minerals like sodium, potassium and calcium. Used long-term, this might lead to complications because your muscles, heart and nerves use these important minerals (electrolytes) to function properly.
What are the potential side effects from weight loss teas?
As noted above, longer term use may impact the balance of electrolytes, which may lead to muscle weakness and other side effects.
Some of the ingredients in teatox products, like senna, may irritate the gut causing cramps, discomfort and loose stools. Furthermore, long-term use of laxatives can cause issues with bowel regularity and function. Currently, NHS advice is that, if you do wish to follow one of these programmes, you should limit your intake of a laxative-containing product. These should only be used occasionally and for a short period of time.
In addition to this some of the herbal ingredients may interact with medications and reduce their efficiency. These may include, but are not limited to, steroids and certain heart medications. The laxative effect of some weight loss teas can also cause medicines to move through the digestive system more quickly which could prevent proper absorption from taking place, potentially reducing the efficiency of certain medications such as the contraceptive pill.
Is there anyone who should avoid drinking weight loss teas?
Those under 18 and the elderly should avoid using weight loss teas. Those with an underlying health condition or who are on medication, including the contraceptive pill, should consult their GP or medical practitioner beforehand. In addition to this, anyone with emotional or psychological issues around food (including any history of eating disorders), or those with a low body mass index (BMI) should avoid using weight loss teas.
Please note: if you're considering attempting any form of diet, please consult your GP first to ensure you can do so without risk to health.
This article was published on 10th June 2017.
A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
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Have you tried a teatox diet, or do you have any further questions about them? We'd like to hear from you in the comments below...