Are Green Tea Diet Pills Safe – Our team of licensed dietitians and nutritionists strives to be objective, unbiased, honest and present both sides of the argument.
This article contains scientific references. Numbers in parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific articles.
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Drinking high-quality tea is a wonderful taste experience, but selecting the best tea and preparing it correctly takes time and knowledge.
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If you are primarily interested in the beneficial effects of green tea to help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and healthy weight control, why not buy a green tea extract supplement and take a pill or two a day to save the effort?
Unfortunately, the decision is not that simple. Taking green tea extract is not the same as drinking green tea.
There is some evidence for the health benefits of green tea extract, but also many reasons for hesitation.
Keep reading to learn all about green tea extract and EGCG, how they compare to real green tea, potentially harmful contaminants and side effects, and other helpful insights from peer-reviewed studies.
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Green tea extract is a decaffeinated blend of polyphenols from the tea plant Camellia sinensis (the same plant that produces white tea, green tea, oolong, and black tea).
In other words, green tea extract is a concentrated version of green tea without caffeine. As a dietary supplement, it is available in capsule and powder form.
Most green tea extract comes from tea leaf waste left over from tea processing. (1) Commercial production techniques use hot water or solvents such as alcohol or acetone for extraction, followed by freeze-drying, spraying, or emulsification to ensure a predictable consistency. (2)
Unlike green tea extract, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is a specific, individual catechin polyphenol found in Camellia sinensis. It is also found in lower concentrations in many fruits, nuts and cocoa. (3) (4)
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Green tea contains about 7.3 grams of EGCG per 100 grams of dried tea leaves. (5) It is the most abundant catechin in tea and accounts for nearly 60% of the total catechin content of green tea. (2)
Like green tea extract, EGCG is also available as a supplement and is made using a similar manufacturing process. (6) EGCG used in dietary supplements also comes primarily from leftover green tea leaves.
Because it contains many of the same compounds as Camellia sinensis, some of the properties of green tea extract are similar to the health benefits of green tea.
As we discuss more below, green tea extract and green tea are not interchangeable. But researchers often use extracts in clinical trials to ensure consistent results, so they don’t introduce extra variables like different types of tea or brewing methods.
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Like green tea, the extract has strong antioxidant effects and can neutralize free radicals that otherwise cause oxidative stress and damage cells. (7)
EGCG is the second most powerful antioxidant in tea (after epicatechin). One gram of EGCG is 50% more potent as an antioxidant than a 100 gram serving of blueberries. (8) (9)
But the evidence for the weight-loss effects of green tea extract supplements appears to be inconsistent: Although some studies have shown positive effects, a 2013 systematic review and meta-analysis found that the evidence is overall inconclusive. (10)
Drinking green tea or taking green tea extract is worth a try if you’ve already made lifestyle changes and want to burn extra fat, but don’t expect it to reduce your weight—especially if you’re not eating a healthy diet. And exercise regularly.
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The most obvious differences, of course, are that teapots are portable and may be more convenient, but still lack the familiar flavors and other nuances that make tea drinking a popular pastime around the world.
And pure EGCG or epigallocatechin-3-gallate, by definition, lacks other beneficial green tea catechins and flavonoids such as epicatechin (EC), epicatechin-3-gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin (EGC), gallic acid and tannins. (2)
However, beyond the obvious differences, here’s what research tells us about taking green tea extract as opposed to drinking tea.
The downsides of green tea extract range from the frustrating to the potentially alarming, but they may not be too concerning if you find a reliable supplier that manufactures the supplement to the highest standards.
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In the next section, you’ll learn whether pure green tea extract can be harmful, its potential side effects, and what scientific research says about its overall safety.
Green tea extract contains very powerful antioxidants such as EGCG. But powerful antioxidants in supplement form aren’t always good for your health.
As the authors of the 2019 article stated, “Phytochemicals from supplements (such as powders, tablets, and capsules) and natural whole foods have different effects on the body, and continued consumption of supplements can also have negative consequences. (11)
One reason is that whole foods not only contain beneficial antioxidants, but also offer nutrients and phytochemicals that can provide benefits that go beyond supplements. (11)
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According to a 2018 toxicology study of green tea and its extracts, the safe level of daily EGCG consumption by drinking tea is 704 milligrams per day, but only 338 milligrams per day in the form of green tea extract or EGCG supplements. (12)
In other words, brewing high quality tea is a safer way to get large amounts of healthy tea antioxidants compared to dietary supplements.
In addition to the downsides of consuming high doses of antioxidants in supplement form, EGCG supplementation may have other associated risks.
Like many dietary supplements, EGCG can interact with some prescription medications. Talk to your doctor before taking green tea extract if you are currently taking heart medications, sildenafil (Viagra), blood thinners, statins, or cancer medications. (13)
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Several studies have shown signs of liver damage with green tea extract, such as increased liver enzymes. (14) These effects are rare and probably nothing to worry about, but you should check with your doctor or healthcare professional before taking green tea extract if you have liver disease or liver function problems.
It is fair to say that there is superior evidence for the health benefits and safety of drinking green tea compared to taking green tea extract.
In fact, drinking a cup or more of green tea daily is not only safe, but the best way to get the most health benefits of green tea.
Epidemiological studies (population data) from Asian countries, where daily consumption of green tea is the norm, show that there are practically no side effects, except for the possibility of excessive caffeine intake and a moderately reduced risk of various health problems. (15)
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And as discussed in the previous section, toxicological evidence suggests that tea is a safer way to get EGCG and other green tea antioxidants than green tea extract, and allows you to get twice the daily dose of green tea catechins without harm. (12)
The quality of tea you choose and the method of preparation also affect the safety, catechin levels, and health benefits.
Low quality tea has a high risk of contamination with heavy metals, pesticides, fungi and mycotoxins. (16) (17)
Finally, one study found that mountain-grown tea from China, picked in the spring and brewed for 5-10 minutes at 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius) had the highest total antioxidant content. (18)
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If you prefer to avoid the potential bitterness of long steeps, steeping and re-steeping for shorter durations is another way to extract maximum levels of catechins from loose leaf tea. (18)
If you plan to drink tea daily for pleasure or health, make sure you choose high-quality teas from reputable retailers and brew them properly.
Green tea extract and related supplements like EGCG may be convenient, but convenience comes with potential trade-offs.
If you decide to buy an extract, look for a reputable manufacturer and make sure they use hot water extraction (and nothing else) to avoid contaminants such as solvents left over from processing.
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Still, drinking real tea every day is a safer way to get higher doses of catechin antioxidants, and green tea consumption is supported by far more health evidence than green tea extract supplementation.
Keep reading to learn all about green tea extract and EGCG, how they compare to real green tea, potential side effects, and other helpful insights.
The information presented on this website is for educational purposes only. Pique does not provide medical advice, treatment or diagnosis. Health Canada has announced it wants a clearer warning on the labels of green tea extract products because of concerns about the potential for liver damage.
Health Canada has announced it wants stronger warnings about potential liver damage on products containing green tea extract. A previous Marketplace investigation found more than 60 documented cases of liver failure worldwide linked to weight loss supplements containing green tea extract. ()
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Health Canada is ordering a clearer warning on the labels of green tea extract products because of concerns about the risk of liver damage. Over-the-counter pills have become a popular option for those looking to lose weight.
The change follows a federal safety review that occurred after Madeline Papineau, 17, of Cornwall, Ont., ingested the extract and rapidly developed liver and kidney damage. Doctor
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