Black Tea, Flavonoids, and Weight Loss

Losing weight can be as simple as drinking a few cups of black tea everyday – or so the advertisements would like you to believe.  When it comes to weight loss, black tea is surrounded by a lot of misconception. Because there really are so many great benefits to drinking black tea, it can be difficult to sort out which of the claims are true and which are just hype.

Antioxidants: The Key to Black Tea’s Benefits

The reason that black tea has so many health benefits is because it has high levels of polyphenol antioxidants called flavonoids.  Flavonoids are different than the antioxidants which are commonly found in fruits but still essentially work in the same way.  Antioxidants are incredibly important for the body because they fight against free radicals in the body which can lead to cellular damage.  You can read more about how antioxidants protect your body here (can antioxidants really help weight loss).

Antioxidants have numerous proven health benefits, including:

  • Fighting the signs of aging
  • Preventing diseases like cancer
  • Fighting against illnesses
  • Preventing cholesterol from hardening in the arteries
  • Preventing blood clots
  • Reducing risk of diabetes

Black Tea for Weight Loss

As far as weight loss goes, it is unclear as to whether the antioxidants in black tea have any direct benefits.  Some studies indicate that black tea may increase your metabolic rate, though this could be due to the caffeine in black tea and not the antioxidants.  One study conducted in Japan indicates that the antioxidants in tea help reduce LDL cholesterol and body mass.  In the study, Japanese men with similar body types were given tea to drink which had either high or low amounts of antioxidants, while adhering to a controlled diet/exercise regimen. By the end of the 12 week study, the group of men who drank the antioxidant-rich tea had lost significantly more body fat and lowered cholesterol levels compared to the other group.

While many studies about black tea and weight loss are promising, much more research is needed before we fully understand how black tea produces benefits. Even if the research does prove conclusive, it isn’t likely that black tea will ever live up to its current hype as a weight loss supplement.  Just by drinking a few cups of black tea daily, you aren’t going to suddenly drop 20 pounds – especially if you aren’t also eating a balanced diet and exercising.

For most people who want to lose weight, black tea can help simply by promoting lifestyle changes.  When you are drinking the 4-10 cups of black tea daily (the amount which most products recommend for weight loss), then you are probably drinking fewer unhealthy, high-calorie beverages like cola or sugary juices.  Just by making this switch, you can cut significant amounts of calories from your diet and lose weight easier.  Black tea is also hydrating and can help curb hunger cravings.

There are also the weight-loss benefits of the caffeine which is found in black tea.  Caffeine is a stimulant which can help break down fat, increase energy, and suppress appetite.  If you drink black tea in excess, then you may be getting more caffeine than from a caffeine weight loss supplement.  One cup (8 oz) of black tea has about 40-70 mg of caffeine compared to 70-130 in a cup of brewed coffee. 

Which Tea is Best for Weight Loss?

Black, green, and oolong teas are all made from the exact same plant, Camellia sinensis.  The difference between the types of tea is how they are processed.  Black tea is rolled or broken and then allowed to fully oxidize before being dried.  There are numerous types of black tea, such as Darjeeling, Ceylon, and Jiu Qu Hong.  These black tea varieties are usually named after the region where they are grown and each may follow a different processing method.

There is no one best tea for weight loss.  Black, green, oolong and white teas all contain the antioxidants which are purported to help weight loss.  Some of these types may in general have higher levels of antioxidants and thus be more effective.  However, there are numerous factors other than type which determine the antioxidant level of a tea.  One of the most important factors is freshness.  If you want to lose weight by drinking tea, you should choose a tea which is made from whole leaves and is packaged in a sealed container.

As far as antioxidant content goes, most studies show that green and black tea have the same levels. However, black tea may be more effective for weight loss because it has higher amounts of caffeine than green tea (about 40-70 mg caffeine in a cup of black tea compared to 10-50 mg in a cup of green tea).  People who want to lose weight with tea should be aware that high levels of caffeine can be very harmful to the body. You can read more about caffeine for weight loss here (caffeine for weight loss and how to make it work for you). 

How to Prepare Black Tea for Losing Weight

Preparing black tea for weight loss is very simple.  You just need to soak the tea bag in hot (not boiling) water for approximately 3-5 minutes.  Then, remove the tea bag and drink the tea.  It is important that you never use boiling water to prepare tea if you want to drink it for weight loss. If the water is too hot, it can destroy the beneficial compounds in the tea.

If you want to get all the benefits of black tea, you should also skip the milk.  The proteins in milk have been found to interact with polyphenol antioxidants, thus destroying their benefits.  This may be one reason why the English who generally take their tea with milk have higher rates of obesity than the tea drinkers of Asia, who take it without milk.  Also, keep in mind that adding sugar to your black tea is going to take away from the weight loss benefits.  If you want to lose weight, drink black tea plain or with a bit of lemon.


Frei, Balz and Jane V. Higdon. “Antioxidant Activity of Tea Polyphenols In Vivi: Evidence from Animal Studies.” The Journal of Nutrition, 133;10 (2003): 32755-32845.

Iso H et al “The Relationship between Green Tea and Total Caffeine Intake and Risk for Self-Reported Type 2 Diabetes among Japanese Adults.”  Annals of Internal Medicine, 144;8 (2006): 554-562.

Venables MC; Hulston CJ; Cox HR; and Jeukendrup AE. “Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87;3 (2008):778–84.


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