Slimming Tea – Fact or Fiction?

Many different brands of slimming tea, herbal tea, slimmers’ brew or diet tea are flooding the market, all claiming natural and rapid weight loss as their major benefit. Do they really bring about weight loss, and are they completely safe?

Almost all companies marketing herbal products and organic foods claim that they are safe because they are from natural sources. In addition, they sell in the lines of health, citing antioxidants like vitamin C and green tea as their main active ingredients. Herbal slimming tea, in particular, has gained popularity because of their ease of use, low price and pleasant taste. They are widely sold in groceries and in pharmacies as over-the-counter food supplements. And since fast elimination is the main observable effect, a feeling of actual weight loss and fat elimination lead consumers to believe they are actually accomplishing healthy weight loss.

What Does Slimming Tea Have?

Many kinds and brands of slimming tea claim to have various ingredients from plants and herbs like senna, hoodia cactus, Fructus Crataegi, Fructus Hordei Gerimiatus, Oolong and various bioflavonoids and polyphenols. Bioflavonoids and polyphenols are chemical compounds that come from fruits and vegetables, mainly from fruit skins. They are said to have antioxidant effects in vitro (in the laboratory), but their effects in vivo (in real life) may be wanting. These substances may have the following effects:

  1. Primarily a laxative effect, sometimes even diarrhea
  2. Increased metabolism, because of a thermogenic effect, and hence “burn fat”
  3. Appetite suppression
  4. Prevent the conversion of calories into fat
  5. Act as stimulants in elimination, hence its “body cleansing” action

Along with these, they are marketed as “low calorie”, “sugar-free” and have healthy, anti-cancer effects because of other ingredients like Vitamin C, green tea, various herbs and spices that act as antioxidants.

Fact and Fiction of Slimming Tea

The fact is, slimming tea ingredients do cause elimination of wastes because they act on the large intestine or colon to bring about this effect. However, they do not work on the small intestines where most of fat and calorie absorption take place. Elimination of waste and water brings about the feeling of instant lightness of the body, but not necessarily from loss of fat.

The stimulant effect on the colon also brings about rapid waste elimination, thus the antioxidant ingredients may hardly stay long enough to be absorbed. Therefore their healthy properties may not be of much benefit in the end.

Risks vs. Benefits of Slimming Tea

Behind the perceived benefits of slimming tea many risks abound:

  1. Chronic use (like more than a week) of laxatives may weaken the walls of the colon and cause a rebound constipation that can be long-lasting and severe.
  2.  Watery diarrhea may become uncontrollable and can cause dehydration, fainting and cardiovascular collapse.
  3.  Abdominal discomfort like stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea may last for days and lead to serious electrolyte imbalance.
  4.  Prolonged use may lead to rectal bleeding, sluggish bowel movements and colon cancer.

People are warned by the FDA to be cautious about taking slimming tea on a regular basis because of the long term effects on colon function. Those who are contemplating its use should also be forewarned about its violent abdominal effects which may result in loss of fluids and electrolytes. In addition these substances are not advisable for people who may be suffering from diseases like hypertension, heart disease, metabolic disorders, and psychological conditions like anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

As always, a balanced diet with lots of fiber and fluids, fruits and vegetable with less fat and sugar are the mainstays of healthy living. Supply of antioxidants and the right calorie sources are better than extreme weight loss techniques because their benefits far outweigh the risks they bring about.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

Dr. Angelica Samarista-Giron is a medical graduate, an anesthesiologist, trained at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. She trained in clinical trial research and has a BS in Zoology and a BS in Nursing. She did several years of practice in a government hospital, where she served as the Training Officer of the Residency Program in Anesthesiology.

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