You may have already tried green tea, white tea, and oolong tea, but there’s a new type of tea that’s growing in popularity – called yerba mate. The leaves from the South American yerba mate shrub are used to make a drink that many believe has considerable health benefits ‘” particularly when it comes to weight loss. It’s quickly gaining a foothold in the United States as celebrities endorse it as a fat burning alternative to green tea. Does drinking yerba mate help with weight loss?

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Yerba mate is rich in antioxidant chemicals called phenols that may have benefits for protecting cells against damage and even reducing the risk of cancer, although, so far, there’s been little solid research to support this ‘” mainly because so few studies have been carried out. Yerba mate contains caffeine ‘” about fifty milligrams per cup ‘” as well as the stimulants theophylline and theobromine. Theophylline is actually a chemical used in the form of a drug to treat people with asthma. It causes an increase in heart rate, dilation of the vessels in the lungs, and nervousness. Between these three simulating ingredients, it isn’t surprising that people feel more alert when drinking this less common form of tea.

How might yerba mate help with weight loss? It’s the caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine that may be responsible. But, does it work? Studies in obese mice showed that a yerba mate extract reduced body fat and increased the rate of fat burning; but what about obese humans?

Another small study carried out on overweight humans showed that Yerba mate slowed down the rate of gastric emptying – causing participants to feel fuller longer. They were able to lose weight while taking a herbal preparation containing yerba mate along with guarana, and damiana ‘” two herbs that aren’t recommended because of safety issues. It’s not clear whether most of the weight loss came from the yerba mate or the other two herbs.

Drinking yerba mate has shown other health benefits in small animal studies including lowering of cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Studies in mice suggest it may have anti-cancer potential, but more research is needed.

It’s not clear whether drinking yerba mate is effective for weight loss in humans, but it seems not to be harmful for most people when drank in moderation. People who have high blood pressure or heart disease should talk to their doctor before drinking it. The drawback? Some people don’t enjoy its rather grassy, sometimes bitter, taste; and if you’re accustomed to green or black tea, it could take some getting used to.

The bottom line? It’s too early to say whether drinking yerba mate can help reduce body fat, but it may have other health properties ‘” so drink it if you enjoy it.