Green Tea Detox: Is It Good or Bad for You?
The green tea detox is popular because it's easy to follow and doesn't require any major modifications to your diet or lifestyle.
However, while some promote it as a simple way to improve overall health, others dismiss it as yet another unsafe and ineffective fad diet.
This article takes a close look at the green tea detox, including whether its benefits outweigh its risks.
What Is a Green Tea Detox?
The green tea detox is advertised as a simple way to flush out harmful toxins, boost energy levels, and promote better health.
Its proponents claim that simply adding a few daily servings of green tea to your diet can clear up blemishes, enhance immune function, and increase fat burning.
Typically, a green tea detox involves adding 3–6 cups (0.7–1.4 liters) of green tea to your normal daily diet.
It doesn't require you to avoid certain foods or reduce your calorie intake, but it's recommended to exercise and follow a nutrient-rich diet during the detox.
Guidelines on the length of the detox vary, but it's generally followed for several weeks.
A green tea detox involves adding 3–6 cups (0.7–1.4 liters) of green tea to your daily diet for several weeks. Proponents claim that it can flush out toxins, enhance immune function, and boost your weight loss efforts and energy.
While research on the effects of the green tea detox is lacking, plenty of studies have demonstrated the benefits of green tea.
Below are a few of the potential benefits of a green tea detox.
Staying hydrated is important to many aspects of your health, as nearly every system in your body requires water to function properly.
Green tea consists mostly of water. Thus, it can promote hydration and help you meet your daily fluid requirements.
On a green tea detox, you will likely drink 24–48 ounces (0.7–1.4 liters) of fluids each day from green tea alone.
However, green tea should not be your only source of fluids. It should be paired with plenty of water and other healthy beverages to help you stay well hydrated.
Supports Weight Loss
Studies show that increasing your fluid intake could aid your weight loss efforts.
One year-long study in 173 women found that drinking more water was associated with greater fat and weight loss, regardless of diet or exercise (2 Trusted Source).
What's more, green tea and its components have been shown to boost weight loss and fat burning.
One study in 23 adults found that consuming green tea extract increased fat burning during exercise by 17%, compared to a placebo (3 Trusted Source).
Another large review of 11 studies showed that certain compounds in green tea, including plant chemicals called catechins, could decrease body weight and support weight loss maintenance (4 Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, these studies used highly concentrated green tea extracts.
Studies on regular green tea and weight loss have found that it might have a small, but statistically non-significant, effect on weight loss (5 Trusted Source).
May Aid in Disease Prevention
Green tea contains powerful compounds that are thought to help protect against chronic disease.
For instance, test-tube studies have shown that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a type of antioxidant in green tea, may help block the growth of liver, prostate, and lung cancer cells (6 Trusted Source, 7 Trusted Source, 8 Trusted Source).
Drinking green tea may also help decrease blood sugar levels. In fact, one review found that drinking at least 3 cups (237 ml) per day was associated with a 16% lower risk of developing diabetes (9 Trusted Source, 10 Trusted Source).
A review of 9 studies found that people who drank at least 1 cup (237 ml) of green tea per day had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
Moreover, those who drank at least 4 cups (946 ml) per day were less likely to have a heart attack than those who didn't drink any green tea (11 Trusted Source).
That said, additional studies are needed to understand if following a short-term green tea detox can help prevent disease.
Drinking green tea may help promote hydration, increase weight loss, and prevent disease. More research is needed to evaluate if a green tea detox may offer these same benefits.
Despite the potential benefits of a green tea detox, there are downsides to consider.
Below are a few of the drawbacks associated with following a green tea detox.
High in Caffeine
A single 8-ounce (237-ml) serving of green tea contains approximately 35 mg of caffeine (13 Trusted Source).
This is significantly less than other caffeinated beverages like coffee or energy drinks, which can contain double or even triple that amount per serving.
Nevertheless, drinking 3–6 cups (0.7–1.4 liters) of green tea per day can pile onto your caffeine intake, adding up to 210 mg of caffeine per day from green tea alone.
It's also addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms like headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and mood changes (15 Trusted Source).
For most adults, up to 400 mg of caffeine per day is considered safe. However, some people may be more sensitive to its effects, so consider cutting back if you experience any negative symptoms (16 Trusted Source).
Impaired Nutrient Absorption
Green tea contains certain polyphenols, such as EGCG and tannins, which can bind to micronutrients and block their absorption in your body.
Although enjoying the occasional cup of green tea is unlikely to cause nutritional deficiencies in healthy adults, a green tea detox may not be advisable for those at a higher risk of iron deficiency.
Unnecessary and Ineffective
Drinking green tea can benefit your health, but the green tea detox is likely ineffective and unnecessary for weight loss and detoxification.
Your body has a built-in detox system to clear out toxins and harmful compounds.
Additionally, while a long-term, regular intake of green tea has been shown to benefit your health in many ways, drinking it for just a few weeks is unlikely to have much of an impact.
Furthermore, although adding green tea to your diet may result in small and short-term weight loss, it's unlikely to be long-lasting or sustainable once the detox ends.
Therefore, green tea should be viewed as a component of a healthy diet and lifestyle — not part of a "detox."
Green tea contains a good amount of caffeine and polyphenols, which may impair iron absorption. A green tea detox may also be unnecessary and ineffective, especially if it's only followed for short periods.
Other Options for Healthy Detoxing and Weight Loss
Your body has a complex system to eliminate toxins, optimize your health, and prevent disease.
For example, your intestines excrete waste products, your lungs expel carbon dioxide, your skin secretes sweat, and your kidneys filter blood and produce urine (20 Trusted Source).
Instead of following fad diets or cleanses, it's best to give your body the nutrients and fuel that it needs to detox itself more effectively and promote better health in the long term.
Drinking plenty of water each day, exercising regularly, and eating nutritious whole foods are simple ways to optimize your health and promote weight loss without the dangerous side effects associated with some detox diets.
Finally, while green tea can be a great addition to a balanced diet, stick to a few cups per day and be sure to pair it with other diet and lifestyle modifications for better results.
Staying hydrated, following a well-rounded diet, and exercising regularly are easy ways to promote healthy weight loss and maximize your body's natural ability to clear out toxins.
The Bottom Line
Green tea may boost weight loss, keep you hydrated, and protect against chronic disease.
However, drinking 3–6 cups (0.7–1.4 liters) per day on a green tea detox may impair your nutrient absorption and increase your caffeine intake. It's also unlikely to benefit your health or weight loss efforts if only followed short term.
Green tea should be enjoyed as part of a nutritious diet — not a quick fix.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Bob Jacobs
Hanako, a female Asian elephant, lived in a tiny concrete enclosure at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo for more than 60 years, often in chains, with no stimulation. In the wild, elephants live in herds, with close family ties. Hanako was solitary for the last decade of her life.
Hanako, an Asian elephant kept at Japan's Inokashira Park Zoo; and Kiska, an orca that lives at Marineland Canada. One image depicts Kiska's damaged teeth. Elephants in Japan (left image), Ontario Captive Animal Watch (right image), CC BY-ND
Affecting Health and Altering Behavior<p>It is easy to observe the overall health and psychological consequences of life in captivity for these animals. Many captive elephants suffer from arthritis, obesity or skin problems. Both <a href="https://doi.org/10.11609/JoTT.o2620.1826-36" target="_blank">elephants</a> and orcas often have severe dental problems. Captive orcas are plagued by <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank">pneumonia, kidney disease, gastrointestinal illnesses and infections</a>.</p><p>Many animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.09.010" target="_blank">try to cope</a> with captivity by adopting abnormal behaviors. Some develop "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stereotypies</a>," which are repetitive, purposeless habits such as constantly bobbing their heads, swaying incessantly or chewing on the bars of their cages. Others, especially big cats, pace their enclosures. Elephants rub or break their tusks.</p>
Changing Brain Structure<p>Neuroscientific research indicates that living in an impoverished, stressful captive environment <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2019.05.005" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">physically damages the brain</a>. These changes have been documented in many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.903270108" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">species</a>, including rodents, rabbits, cats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humans</a>.</p><p>Although researchers have directly studied some animal brains, most of what we know comes from observing animal behavior, analyzing stress hormone levels in the blood and applying knowledge gained from a half-century of neuroscience research. Laboratory research also suggests that mammals in a zoo or aquarium have compromised brain function.</p>
This illustration shows differences in the brain's cerebral cortex in animals held in impoverished (captive) and enriched (natural) environments. Impoverishment results in thinning of the cortex, a decreased blood supply, less support for neurons and decreased connectivity among neurons. Arnold B. Scheibel, CC BY-ND<p>Subsisting in confined, barren quarters that lack intellectual stimulation or appropriate social contact seems to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1590/S0001-37652001000200006" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">thin the cerebral cortex</a> – the part of the brain involved in voluntary movement and higher cognitive function, including memory, planning and decision-making.</p><p>There are other consequences. Capillaries shrink, depriving the brain of the oxygen-rich blood it needs to survive. Neurons become smaller, and their dendrites – the branches that form connections with other neurons – become less complex, impairing communication within the brain. As a result, the cortical neurons in captive animals <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/cne.901230110" target="_blank">process information less efficiently</a> than those living in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/dev.420020208" target="_blank">enriched, more natural environments</a>.</p>
An actual cortical neuron in a wild African elephant living in its natural habitat compared with a hypothesized cortical neuron from a captive elephant. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Brain health is also affected by living in small quarters that <a href="https://doi.org/10.3233/BPL-160040" target="_blank">don't allow for needed exercise</a>. Physical activity increases the flow of blood to the brain, which requires large amounts of oxygen. Exercise increases the production of new connections and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw2622" target="_blank">enhances cognitive abilities</a>.</p><p>In their native habits these animals must move to survive, covering great distances to forage or find a mate. Elephants typically travel anywhere from <a href="https://www.elephantsforafrica.org/elephant-facts/#:%7E:text=How%20far%20do%20elephants%20walk,km%20on%20a%20daily%20basis." target="_blank">15 to 120 miles per day</a>. In a zoo, they average <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150331" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">three miles daily</a>, often walking back and forth in small enclosures. One free orca studied in Canada swam <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-010-0958-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">up to 156 miles a day</a>; meanwhile, an average orca tank is about 10,000 times smaller than its <a href="https://www.cascadiaresearch.org/projects/killer-whales/using-dtags-study-acoustics-and-behavior-southern" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">natural home range</a>.</p>
Disrupting Brain Chemistry and Killing Cells<p>Living in enclosures that restrict or prevent normal behavior creates chronic frustration and boredom. In the wild, an animal's stress-response system helps it escape from danger. But captivity traps animals with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1215502109" target="_blank">almost no control</a> over their environment.</p><p>These situations foster <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000033" target="_blank">learned helplessness</a>, negatively impacting the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/6391686" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hippocampus</a>, which handles memory functions, and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2011.02.024" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">amygdala</a>, which processes emotions. Prolonged stress <a href="https://doi.org/10.3109/10253899609001092" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elevates stress hormones</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.10-09-02897.1990" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">damages or even kills neurons</a> in both brain regions. It also disrupts the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2005.03.021" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">delicate balance of serotonin</a>, a neurotransmitter that stabilizes mood, among other functions.</p><p>In humans, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/nimg.2001.0917" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deprivation</a> can trigger <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychiatric issues</a>, including depression, anxiety, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2018.00367" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mood disorders</a> or <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1073858409333072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">post-traumatic stress disorder</a>. <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s00429-010-0288-3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Elephants</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0050139" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">orcas</a> and other animals with large brains are likely to react in similar ways to life in a severely stressful environment.</p>
Damaged Wiring<p>Captivity can damage the brain's complex circuitry, including the basal ganglia. This group of neurons communicates with the cerebral cortex along two networks: a direct pathway that enhances movement and behavior, and an indirect pathway that inhibits them.</p><p>The repetitive, <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.057" target="_blank">stereotypic behaviors</a> that many animals adopt in captivity are caused by an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, dopamine and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.02.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">serotonin</a>. This impairs the indirect pathway's ability to modulate movement, a condition documented in species from chickens, cows, sheep and horses to primates and big cats.</p>
The cerebral cortex, hippocampus and amygdala are physically altered by captivity, along with brain circuitry that involves the basal ganglia. Bob Jacobs, CC BY-ND<p>Evolution has constructed animal brains to be exquisitely responsive to their environment. Those reactions can affect neural function by <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/311787/behave-by-robert-m-sapolsky/" target="_blank">turning different genes on or off</a>. Living in inappropriate or abusive circumstance alters biochemical processes: It disrupts the synthesis of proteins that build connections between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that facilitate communication among them.</p><p>There is strong evidence that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0577-11.2011" target="_blank">enrichment</a>, social contact and appropriate space in more natural habitats are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1090.2003.tb02071.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">necessary</a> for long-lived animals with large brains such as <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152490" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elephants</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/13880292.2017.1309858" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cetaceans</a>. Better conditions <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5543669/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduce disturbing sterotypical behaviors</a>, improve connections in the brain, and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/cdd.2009.193" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trigger neurochemical changes</a> that enhance learning and memory.</p>