Curb your appetite! *
Speed up your fat burning! *
Lose weight and not be hungry! *
Lose ten pounds in five days! *
Forget calories! Forget carbs! *
The claims are enticing. When I see them on television or in a magazine or newspaper ad it’s sometimes tempting to think that just by taking a pill or a few capsules a day I could lose those extra pounds. The ads often imply I won’t have to give up my favorite foods and won’t even have to look at a treadmill. Better yet, some hint that I can lose weight while sleeping. I could deal with that. But then I see the asterisk.
There’s always an asterisk. It’s usually quite small and easy to miss. The asterisks after the claims refer to additional information that can be found in the ad, usually at the bottom in very small type. They’re almost always accompanied by the words “When used with our diet and exercise program” or a similar statement. Darn.
Sometimes the ads show a beautiful woman who tells us that she lost 20 pounds while still eating all the chocolate she wanted. She too has an asterisk somewhere or a disclaimer that runs quickly along the bottom of the screen and says, “Results not typical.” Double darn, especially since sometimes the “before” and “after” photos seem to imply that while losing the weight your teeth will be whiter and straighter, your hair will look thicker and shinier and somehow, despite the weight loss, your bust size will increase. It’s especially intriguing when the woman is sometimes at least two inches taller in the “after” picture.
So when a friend claimed she had lost several pounds without changing her diet but simply by drinking green tea, I was skeptical to say the least. I looked her up and down but couldn’t find the asterisk. I did notice she had indeed lost weight; she looked better and seemed to have more energy. Over the next few weeks we had a few meals together and I could see her appetite hadn’t diminished, nor had her helpings; she ate like she wasn’t dieting. I could also see that she had lost even more weight. I asked more questions about green tea and her answers intrigued me enough to do some research.
The more I researched the more interested I got. Green tea had not been part of my vocabulary, much less my diet. My whole life has been spent with coffee drinkers. As a child coffee was an occasional treat in which to dunk a cinnamon roll. Like so many, I started drinking coffee on a regular basis in college. Tea was something I only saw in a Chinese restaurant or politely sipped when nothing else was offered at a friend’s house. I tried herbal teas once in a while after reading their health benefits, but always preferred coffee. I even went to a formal afternoon tea at a restaurant with friends, but have to admit I enjoyed the sandwiches, scones and the ceremony more than the tea.
The last several years I have had a small box of Earl Grey tea on hand because I knew some friends preferred it, but I didn’t know there was such a thing as green tea, much less oolong, white or red tea. Through my research I have been introduced to a tea world I didn’t know existed, and have found it to be fascinating, surprising and amazingly promising — fascinating because of the history and traditions associated with tea, surprising because of the findings of the many studies I read, and promising because the ongoing research indicates we are getting closer to finding the answers for many of the health issues we face today, including obesity, and green tea may be an important component of those answers.
Let me be clear. I am not an expert. I’m a writer and editor who has edited enough medical books and articles to have a pretty good medical vocabulary and a really good chance at spelling words correctly. More important, I have a library of medical reference books and if I’m not totally sure of a term, I’ll find it and keep reading until I understand it.
It’s harder to figure out which reports are true and which ones are guesses or opinions; what research is flawed, or who has a vested interest in the results, i.e., a cereal company sponsoring research with results saying cereal is good for you. There’s a lot of research being done, sometimes with conflicting results, and those results can take years to sort out. As we have seen, almost on a daily basis, there is still much we don’t know about nutrition, disease, and medicine; most important, there is much we don’t know about the human body and its interaction with nutrition, disease and medicine.
The Internet has made researching any issue so much easier, so much more productive and so much more confusing. When you find the information, you have to judge whether the site is reliable enough to count on the accuracy of the information. I’ve tried to do that. I’ll discuss more about the importance of research in Chapter 8, because after all that I’ve learned in the last few months, I’m convinced each of us must become an MD — a “Me” Doctor.
One answer I wanted to find out was pretty basic: how many people in the United States are overweight? We are constantly hearing that we’re an overweight society and, frankly, I had tuned it out. When I read the statistics, I was shocked. When I started to really look at other people, especially groups of people, I had to admit the statistics are correct. Almost two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight.
I was one of them. Having been thin most of my life I hadn’t given it much thought. Even after two children, weight wasn’t an issue, though I’ll admit my fitness level wasn’t great. I got into the routine of collapsing on the couch in front of the television when the children were finally asleep. But then as the years went by I noticed the dreaded “middle-age spread” was attacking, and vowed to do something about it right after…I completed the editing job I was working on…the holidays…as soon as the birthday cake was gone (“Wouldn’t want to waste good food),” Monday, okay, maybe next Monday. I don’t know why I thought I had to start on a Monday. But that’s the way it went for too many holidays, too many birthdays, and way too many Mondays.
Middle-age spread is a reality and can start when we’re in our 20s. Without changing our eating habits, we slowly gain about a pound per year. Women tend to store fat in their hips and thighs until menopause and then the fat shifts somewhat and thickens the waist. Men gain weight in a somewhat similar fashion, resulting the infamous “beer belly.”
We all know how to lose weight: burn more calories than you take in. Not always easy and, given the statistics, rarely done, especially as we get older. And it’s not your imagination that it’s harder to lose the pounds as you get older. Our metabolism slows as we age so it takes more energy to burn those calories.
That brings us to green tea and why it can help us lose weight. The short answer: it speeds up metabolism and helps our bodies burn fat, about 80 calories a day. The result: If you’re in your in your 40s, 50s, or older, drinking green tea may help you lose the pounds that have crept up on you. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you may be able to prevent middle-age spread with the help of green tea.
A caveat (or an asterisk): If you’re extremely overweight or obese, you’re not going to lose all of those pounds simply with green tea. But green tea can give an added boost to your weight-loss efforts. It has been used safely for centuries, it tastes good, it’s reasonably inexpensive, provides nutrients without adding calories or artificial chemicals and has far less caffeine than coffee or colas.
Caffeine is constantly in the news. Is it good or bad? We’ll look at both possibilities in Chapter Three. We’ll also look at an easy way you can decaffeinate tea in your own kitchen.
First, though, we’ll look at the 1999 research study that created the interest in green tea, and some of the other studies that have corroborated those findings. We’ll also touch upon why your doctor probably doesn’t know much about green tea.
Then we’ll take a quick walk through some of the world’s tea gardens to learn how tea is grown and processed. All tea comes from the same plant; it’s the processing that determines whether it will end up in your cup as a dark, bold, wake-me-up black tea, a soothing green tea or a delicate white tea.
You may have seen ads for extracts of green tea. Can you just take a pill and lose weight? Chapter four will look at the pros and cons.
America was a tea-drinking nation until that little incident in Boston in 1773 known as the Boston Tea Party. It’s taken more than two centuries but Americans are again learning to enjoy tea. For those not familiar with brewing tea (as I was not) we’ll talk about the two most important ingredients, the tea and the water. We’ll also discuss how to choose and store tea and the various methods of brewing. Hint: Green tea should not be brewed the same way you would brew black tea.
There is far more research about the other health-related benefits of drinking tea. Though this book is primarily about the weight-loss aspects of tea, you should be aware of what science is saying about its disease-prevention possibilities. Chapter Six will go over some of that research, including the asterisks.
Chapter Seven is a mixture of tips (how to deal with tea stains), other weight-loss ideas, and even other uses for tea. Ever tried to read your tea leaves? We’ll tell you how with absolutely no guarantee as to their accuracy and your future.
So how much tea do you need to drink to lose weight or ward off disease? Chapter eight will answer that question as well as get you started on becoming your own M.D. (“Me” Doctor). It includes the various charts that can help you determine how healthy you are and what questions you need to ask your colleague, the one with the medical degree on the wall.