Tea saved my mother’s life. It changed my life. And I believe it will change yours. Shortly after I was born, my mother developed diabetes. I lost an uncle to the disease, and many of my relatives struggle with it.
My parents met in Korea when they worked together at a hospital — my mother as a nurse, my father as a pharmacist. When I turned 3 we immigrated to America, and my parents did what so many educated Koreans have done because of language barriers: they opened a grocery store.
Owning a convenience store is not a good career for a diabetic. You’re surrounded by muffins, doughnuts, candy bars. Five years ago, my father passed away from complications from a stroke. Shortly afterwards, my mother had a terrible fall. Her diabetes was raging out of control.
I remember the day I sat with her, after doctors had told her the limitations of Western medicine when it came to diabetes. I asked her about her time as a nurse in Korea, and what she knew of Eastern medicine.
The same word kept coming up time and again: Tea.
It was common in our house when I was young, but over time we moved towards commercial soft drinks. During a short stint back in Korea, I rediscovered tea for myself. Now, with my mother’s life at stake, I really threw myself into the research.
Using my parents’ medical background and my skills as a journalist, what I discovered is a mountain of stunning scientific evidence that tea not only can bring blood sugar and blood pressure under control, it can rev up metabolism, reduce bloating, feelings of hunger and levels of stress hormones — and even kill types of cancer cells.
Certain teas are also perfect for something else — helping you lose weight, or more specifically, preventing your body from being able to gain weight.
Here are six fat-blocking teas that I discovered in my research.
1. White Tea: Shuttles fat from the body
White tea is dried naturally, often in sunlight, making it the richest source of antioxidants among teas — with as much as three times as many polyphenols as green tea.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism showed that it can simultaneously boost the breakdown of fat and block the formation of fat cells.
It’s also a rich source of an antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from the cells and helps speed the liver’s ability to turn fat into energy. If there is such a thing as diet tea, this is it.
2. Green Tea: Reverses your fat-storage genes
Green tea is particularly high in a type of catechin called EGCG, which can “turn off” the genetic triggers for diabetes and obesity as well as boost levels of CCK, a hunger-quelling hormone.
A 2014 study found that obese and diabetic people have different patterns of gene markers than those who are not. Essentially, the “on” switches for their fat-storage genes have been tripped.
If that sounds like science fiction, it’s not. It’s the new science of nutritional genetics, and it’s changing everything we know about weight loss.
3. Black Tea: Reduces your body’s level of fat-storage hormones
Next time you’re stressed out, brew a pot of black tea.
Research has found it can increase the rate at which your body is able to calm down and bring cortisol levels back to normal. When stress hits, adrenaline causes fat cells to release fatty acids into your blood stream.
A second hormone called cortisol grabs up those fatty acids and stores them in your belly region. With that fat stored, not burned, your body goes looking for more calories.
4. Barberry: Prevents fat cells from growing larger
Berberine, a naturally occurring chemical made from the barberry shrub, can prevent weight gain, even on a high-fat diet, and the development of insulin resistance.
Consuming the plant can boost energy expenditure and help decrease the number of receptors on the surface of fat cells, making them less apt to absorb incoming sources of fat.
5. Rooibos: Inhibits the formation of fat cells
The polyphenols and flavonoids found in this tea inhibit the formation of new fat cells — by as much as 22 percent.
What makes rooibos tea particularly good is a powerful flavonoid called aspalathin, which can reduce stress hormones that trigger hunger and fat storage.
6. Pu-erh: Shrinks your fat cells
Pu-erh is a fermented green tea that's dried and rolled into blocks. Researchers found that it significantly lowered triglyceride concentrations (potentially dangerous fat found in the blood) and belly fat in high-fat diet groups of rats.
Although the tea may have a slightly different outcome in humans, there’s enough research surrounding green tea to make this exotic spin-off worth exploring.