According to studies, some types of tea can boost weight loss, in addition to having other health benefits.
However, when it comes to certain varieties of tea, research findings are mixed. In fact, many of the teas marketed as weight loss teas, slimming teas, or detox teas range from ineffective to potentially harmful.
In this article, you’ll learn where tea fits into a healthy weight loss plan, how tea can affect weight loss, which teas are best and which ones to avoid, and more.
Green tea in particular may help reduce your body weight by about 3 pounds, on average, if taken daily[*].
Other related benefits include belly fat loss, reduced waist circumference, decreased overall body fat levels, and easier weight maintenance[*].
However, some teas touted for weight loss benefits are ineffective or, worse, can even be harmful.
The types of teas backed by the most research for weight loss are “true teas” in the Camellia sinensis family, such as green tea, oolong tea, and black tea.
- Reduce appetite and curb cravings
- Raise energy expenditure and metabolism, and
- Increase fat-burning and weight loss.
Green tea and other true teas are also safe when consumed in moderation, as long as they’re contaminant-free[*].
If possible, instead of generic tea bags, buy high-quality loose-leaf tea that’s organic and tested to be free of heavy metals, pesticides, and contaminants.
Also, if you’re considering using tea to speed up weight loss, be very cautious which type of tea you purchase.
So-called weight loss teas and slimming teas are promoted for rapid weight loss, but may contain laxatives, diuretics, and other harmful ingredients[*].
Some herbal detox teas have even been associated with severe liver damage[*].
Keep reading to discover what peer-reviewed studies say about tea for weight loss, how different teas compare, and other relevant facts about tea.
Compared to other teas, green tea and white tea undergo the least oxidation, meaning they have the highest levels of antioxidants.
The main difference between green and white tea is the type of processing that occurs after tea leaves are harvested.
Green tea is typically lightly baked, pan-fried, or steamed to destroy the enzymes that cause oxidation, while white tea (the least processed type of tea) undergoes an even gentler version of the same process, or is withered in the sun[*].
Both types of teas tend to have fresh, grassy, vegetal, and mildly floral tasting notes.
A randomized controlled study of obese people conducted in 2008 found that after 12 weeks of green tea consumption, the group that received green tea lost an average of 7.3 pounds more than the group who didn’t[*].
The typical weight loss results aren’t quite so dramatic, however. According to a 2009 review, the average weight loss from drinking tea is closer to 2.9 pounds[*].
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the main fat burning compound identified in green tea, but research shows that other catechins, flavonoids, and polyphenol antioxidants also help support weight loss[*].
Although green tea is backed by more research than any other tea for weight loss, including white tea, the benefits should be similar since white tea is also very high in antioxidants.
Even if you’re new to all the different varieties of tea, the chances are high that you’ve encountered black tea before.
Black tea is the most popular tea worldwide, and it’s enjoyed in a variety of ways–from bold “English breakfast” blends to sweet iced tea in the southern United States.
The process for making black tea begins with withering, then rolling and drying the leaves, but unlike green or white tea, there’s no heating step to destroy the enzymes found in the leaves.
Unlike green and white teas, black tea is allowed to undergo full oxidation, which is why it’s much darker in color and has a dramatically different flavor profile (ranging from malty, chocolaty, smoky, or caramel, to semi-sweet and fruity)[*].
That means it’s lower in antioxidants and instead contains other compounds, but some evidence suggests it could still support weight loss by[*]:
- decreasing carbohydrate digestion,
- increasing production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), and
- providing gut health benefits.
One study found that drinking 3 cups per day of black tea helped prevent weight gain and reduced weight circumference[*].
Oolong or wulong tea is a type of partially oxidized tea that’s less oxidized than black tea, but more oxidized than green and white teas.
Within the oolong category, teas can range from lightly oxidized (nearly green) to more thoroughly oxidized (nearly black), and can be charcoal-roasted, pan-fried, or baked.
The flavor profile of oolong tea ranges widely and can be intensely floral, remarkably sweet and fruity, or smoky and deep depending on the variety.
As you might expect, oolong teas have more antioxidants than black tea, but fewer than green tea[*].
There’s limited evidence regarding oolong and weight loss, but a few studies suggest it can contribute to weight loss similarly to green and black tea by boosting metabolism and helping to burn fat[*][*].
Pu’erh teas (also spelled as puer or pu-erh tea) are a class of fermented teas exclusively from Yunnan Province, China. They belong to a larger family of fermented teas known as hei cha, literally “dark tea.”
The production process for pu’erh begins similarly to white tea, with withering and sun-drying to prevent oxidation, but the tea leaves are then pressed into cakes and aged.
During the aging process, living bacteria and other microorganisms transform pu’erh tea, increasing its complexity over time[*].
People value pu’erh for its woodsy, earthy, spicy, and bitter flavors as well as the living probiotic bacteria it contains.
There aren’t as many studies on pu’erh for weight loss compared to other teas, but there’s still a good chance it could be effective for shedding fat.
One study found that drinking pu’erh tea daily for 3 months led to about 2.9 pounds of weight loss, which is almost identical to results for other teas[*].
Herbal teas or tisanes are beverages made by steeping or infusing herbs, spices, leaves, or other plant material in hot water.
Unlike true teas, herbal teas are not made from the leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis).
Aside from yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) and guayusa (Ilex guayusa), herbal teas are caffeine-free.
Very limited data (including evidence from animal studies) supports a possible weight loss benefit for the following herbs:
Generally speaking, herbal teas are likely to be less effective than green tea and other true teas for weight loss, but they might still provide a minor boost in weight loss for people who prefer to avoid caffeine.
Tea isn’t a game-changer for weight loss, but drinking a few cups a day can have a modest benefit if you’re looking to shed a few pounds.
If you’re shopping for a safe and effective weight loss tea, keep in mind that the best options usually have one or two simple, proven ingredients–lots of extra “miracle” ingredients are unnecessary, and could be a red flag.