Facts About Oolong Tea and Weight Loss

The ancient belief that oolong tea promotes weight loss has recently reemerged, with some health food stores selling it as a diet aid. Although it has not been shown to be a miracle product, some evidence does suggest that it could help your body use more calories in a shorter period of time. Oolong tea may offer a variety of other health benefits as well.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is made of the leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, the same plant that black tea and green tea are made from. Only about 2 percent of the nonherbal tea produced in the world is oolong, which consists of leaves that are aged longer than those of green tea, but for a shorter period than those of black tea.

Energy Expenditure

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, physiologist William Rumpler, in an effort to shed light on an ancient Chinese belief linking oolong tea consumption to weight loss, conducted a study at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland on energy expenditure on participants who drank either 4 cups of tea or 4 cups of plain water each day for three days. At the end of the study, he and his research team found that the participants who drank the tea had a 3 percent higher expenditure and burned, on average, 67 more calories a day than they previously had. In addition, the tea drinkers had a 12 percent higher fat oxidation rate than the water drinkers, a finding that led the researchers to believe that caffeine was not the only reason for a rise in their metabolic rates.

Adding Green Tea Extract

Because you lose weight by using more calories than your body takes in, oolong tea's ability to increase your energy expenditure could help you lose weight more quickly. The Linus Pauling Institute cites a study in which 35 overweight men were given either oolong tea or a mixture of oolong tea and green tea extract for a period of 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the men who drank the mixture had reduced their body weight, waist circumference, body mass index and amount of subcutaneous fat significantly more than the men who drank plain oolong tea. The scientists concluded that higher concentrations of tea may promote greater weight loss.

Caffeine

It may seem that drinking more tea would make you burn more calories because of the tea's caffeine content, but this is where the researchers take pause. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, black tea contains 42 to 72 milligrams of caffeine per cup, while green and oolong teas contain 9 to 50 milligrams of caffeine per cup, yet black tea does not seem to promote weight loss the way oolong and green teas might. Additionally, a cup of coffee contains 72 to 130 milligrams of caffeine and does not appear to increase energy expenditure more effectively than the mixture of green and oolong tea.

Other Health Benefits

Oolong tea, says U.S. Department of Agriculture chemist Richard Anderson, may increase insulin activity and lower blood sugar levels. In addition, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, it contains fluoride, which can improve oral health, and it may offer a modest decrease in the risk of a heart attack, kidney stones or even some cancers. A great deal of research is still being done as of 2010, but because oolong tea is safe and natural, it is a convenient beverage to add to your diet if you would like to try it for weight loss.