November 2016 Issue
Ask the Expert: Closer Look at Teatoxing
By Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN
Vol. 18, No. 11, P. 10
Q: Many dietitians have been asking, "What is 'teatoxing,' and does it have any scientific merit?"
A: Many tea companies are adding ingredients such as herbs in their teas and marketing them for weight loss, detoxification, and increased energy. These types of teas and detox plans (typically 14 or 28 days) have been coined "teatoxing." Tea does contain flavonoids and catechins, which function as powerful antioxidants, and studies have shown benefits of tea including heart health, blood glucose control in those with type 2 diabetes, and improved cognitive function. However, there's no scientific evidence to show that teatoxing helps detoxify the body or aids in weight loss.1-3 Furthermore, some of the ingredients in teatoxes can be dangerous when consumed with certain medications or supplements.
The ingredients added to tea for teatoxing are considered dietary supplements, so companies don't have to provide evidence of their claims. The most common issue with the added ingredients is they can interact with certain medications or supplements. The ingredients many teatoxes contain include the following:
• Senna: Made from the leaves or fruit of the senna plant, senna is often and safely used as a laxative. According to the National Institutes of Health's US National Library of Medicine, there's insufficient evidence that this herb is effective for weight loss.4
• Guarana: This plant is named for the Guarani tribe in the Amazon. Guarana contains caffeine, and consumption of typical doses may cause side effects such as insomnia, restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, tremors, delirium, and diuresis. There's insufficient evidence that guarana is effective for weight loss.5
• Yerba mate: The leaves of the mate plant contain caffeine and are used as a stimulant. Although the National Institutes of Health deems yerba mate as "possibly safe" in moderation for most people, in teatoxing it's usually combined with other stimulants and questionable ingredients.6 Furthermore, it interacts with several medications including antibiotics, lithium, and some asthma drugs. Lastly, there's insufficient evidence that yerba mate helps combat obesity.6
• Garcinia cambogia: This tree grows throughout Asia, Africa, and the Polynesian Islands. It has been touted to decrease the number of new fat cells the body creates and control appetite. Garcinia cambogia has little or no effect on weight loss, and can cause nausea, headache, chest tightness, wheezing, and difficulty breathing and digestive problems.7
Dietetics professionals should build a good rapport and trust with clients so they feel comfortable discussing teatoxing, medications, and supplements. If a client is on a teatox, the nutrition professional must first review the ingredients in the tea and determine whether any medication or supplement interaction may exist. In addition, dietitians should discuss the side effects of the teatox with clients and discourage its use. If clients feel they must follow a teatox, RDs should encourage following it for as few days as possible.
To be prepared to respond to clients' questions, dietitians must stay abreast of the common teatoxes sold. Many teatoxing sites do provide disclaimers, tell consumers to eat a healthful diet, and disclose the possibility of the laxative effects from the tea. Common teatoxes include the following:
When armed with the proper knowledge, RDs will be better prepared to discuss and discourage teatoxing with clients who inquire about it.
— Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder of Toby Amidor Nutrition (http://tobyamidornutrition.com) and the author of the cookbook The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day. She's also a nutrition expert for FoodNetwork.com and a contributor to US News Eat + Run, MensFitness.com, and Muscle & Fitness.
1. Kuriyama S, Shimazu T, Ohmori K, et al. Green tea consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes in Japan: the Ohsaki study. JAMA. 2006;296(10):1255-1265.
2. Nagao T, Meguro S, Hase T, et al. A catechin-rich beverage improves obesity and blood glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009;17(2):310-317.
3. Kuriyama S, Hozawa A, Ohmori K, et al. Green tea consumption and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study from the Tsurugaya Project 1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(2):355-361.
4. Senna. MedlinePlus website. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/652.html. Updated February 16, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2016.
5. Guarana. MedlinePlus website. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/935.html. Updated February 14, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2016.
6. Yerba mate. MedlinePlus website. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/828.html. Updated February 16, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2016.
7. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary supplements for weight loss: fact sheet for consumers. https://ods.od.nih.gov/pdf/factsheets/WeightLoss-Consumer.pdf. Updated February 17, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016.