First clinical study shows antiobesity effect of Pu-erh Tea

The use of Pu-erh tea significantly decreases body weight, BMI, and waist circumference 

Chinese Pu-Erh tea is a legendary variety of fermented dark tea from resource-rich Yunnan province, an area possessing the largest diversity and complexity of plant life in China. Fermentation adds compound complexity to Pu-erh, which has long been thought to confer antiobese effects in humans. While animal studies have demonstrated these benefits,1 no human clinical studies have—until now. The results are encouraging, because weight loss all too often becomes a success/failure cycle. Here is new way that a very popular class of foods can be incorporated into daily living with slimming effects—i.e., the loss of inches from your waistline.

Supportive Animal Studies

In addition to animal studies showing antiobesity results for Pu-Erh tea,1 there is evidence that gallic acid is related to the reduction of visceral fat and cholesterol contents and can reduce obesity in animals.2However, the results are not in for what makes one Pu-erh more effect than another..

A recent study, motivated by the above findings,1–2 examined the effects of Pu-Erh Tea Extract (PTE) ingestion (containing high amounts of gallic acid) on 36 preobese Japanese adults.3Preobese is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 kg/m2.* In this double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled group comparison study, which lasted for 12 weeks, barley powdered tea [see Sidebar, “Improving the Taste of Pu-erh”] with PTE or without it (placebo) was tested. In the experimental group, the total amount of PTE used per day was 1⁄3 g consumed before each three daily meals for a combined total of 1 g/day. Of the 36 subjects (24 male; 12 female) who completed the study, 18 randomized cases (14 male; 4 female) received barley tea with PTE, whereas the remaining 18 (male: 10. female: 8) subjects were given the placebo. The age range was 50.7 ± 3.3 for the placebo group and 52.2 ± 2.8 for the PTE group.

* BMI = weight in pounds/(height in inches)2 x 703) is the most commonly used measure for fatness, and despite its limitations BMI is popular because of its convenience, safety, and minimal cost, and thus is widely used.

Benefits Kick In After 8 Weeks

In the PTE-treated group, body weight, BMI, and waist circumference significantly decreased after intake—noted especially after 8 weeks’ use. Computed tomography (CT) scans were performed to measure changes in intra-abdominal adipose tissues and subcutaneous abdominal tissue. The CT scans found that abdominal (naval) section images of all subjects revealed the visceral fat areas (as measured in cm2) were significantly less after PTE ingestion. PTE-treated subjects did not complain of any adverse effects.

Here is new way that a very popular 
class of foods can be incorporated 
into daily living with slimming effects, 
i.e., the loss of inches from 
your waistline.

Increased Benefits When Used Continuously

A follow-up 4-week period after PTE intake stopped showed, not surprisingly, a withdrawal effect—the benefits reversed. Since tea is a food—it would be unwarranted to think that the results would continue if consumption does not. This is similar to believing that if you fill your car’s fuel tank with gas, you will never need to do so again. Or … you only need to eat once to get the benefits.

In the PTE-treated group, the mean 
pretreatment values of body weight, 
BMI, and waist circumference 
significantly decreased after intake.

The daily PTE intake significantly produced antiobesity effects within a 12-week ingestion period. The visceral fat area was reduced by more than 3 cm2 in 10 subjects (albeit the effect was reversible and PTE intake dependent). Overall, ingestion of PTE exhibited significant effects in reducing the mean waist circumference, BMI, and visceral fat values and thus is probably useful for weight control and prevention of obesity development and consequent metabolic syndrome.

Improving the Taste of Pu-erh

In the principal study of the embracing article, the researchers note that the taste and odor of PTE per se are bitter and unpleasant and might have lowered compliance in the participants. So the PTE was blended with barley tea to buffer its unpleasant taste and odor. Barley tea can be purchased at or wherever fine teas are sold. Do not expect any added discernable beneficial effects however.

As fermented and aged Pu-erh has become widely distributed outside of Yunnan Province, it has been lauded for its exquisite developed tastes, and this writer prefers it to other teas. However, for those who don’t develop a taste for it, we recommend adding orange or lemon oil, or cinnamon and milk along with a sweetener to make it more palatable. Then, it can taste quite good and you can enjoy the benefits it offers.

Decreased Fat Tissue and Disease Avoidance

In another study, rats fed with PTE indicate decreased adipose tissue weights when compared with controls.4 Importantly, in humans, high visceral levels are associated with metabolic syndrome—a condition associated with insulin resistance, hypertension, and diabetes. Thus, PTE may play a useful role in preventing the development of metabolic syndrome.

In another study, the researchers also confirmed that PTE improves cholesterol metabolism due to its inhibitory effect on the reabsorption of bile acid.5 Bile acid-binding resins are used clinically as cholesterol-lowering agents. In an experimental type 2 diabetes model, these compounds were found to significantly improve body weight, BMI, and subcutaneous fat weight.6

Elevated tea moods …The Relaxing/Refreshing Properties of EGCG

As I write this, I’m sipping Pu-erh Tea, shifting my perspective in a beneficial way—not so much because of the tea (which, as we know, has a variety of other values), but because I’ve dissolved 4 capsules of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) into the pot. EGCG is but one of the many exotic chemical compounds found in green teafrom which the EGCG capsules are derived. In fact EGCG is considered by some scientists to be among the most promising anticancer compounds ever discovered. It belongs to a class of chemicals called catechins. These are members of a larger class called polyphenols, which are themselves members of a still larger class called flavonoids. Remember that flavonoids—the colorful plant pigments found in many fruits, vegetables, and herbs—are noted for their powerful antioxidant properties and a host of documented benefits against cancer, heart disease, vision disorders, allergies, viral infections, and more. Back to my perspective shift, recent studies have found that EGCG can help induce a more relaxed and attentive state.1Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!


  1. Scholey A, Downey LA, Ciorciari J, Pipingas A, Nolidin K, Finn M, Wines M, Catchlove S, Terrens A, Barlow E, Gordon L, Stough C. Acute neurocognitive effects of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Appetite. 2012 Apr;58(2):767-70.

Visceral fat areas were significantly 
less after Pu-Erh tea ingestion.

The Mechanisms of PTE

Regarding the use of PTE, its benefits may be attributed to 2 different mechanisms: (1) lipase inhibition and (2) inhibition of bile acid reabsorption. PTE has also demonstrated the ability to inhibit fatty acid synthesis enzymes and decrease total lipid contents via mimicking the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) pathway in human liver cells.7When activated, AMPK increases cellular energy levels by inhibiting fatty acid synthesis and stimulating energy producing, catabolic pathways such as fatty acid oxidation.

The daily PTE intake significantly 
produced antiobesity effects within a 
12-week ingestion period.

In a previous study, the Japanese researchers of the current study demonstrated that PTE significantly reduces blood cholesterol levels in borderline hypercholesterolemia.8In this 3-month double-blind randomized group comparison study, 47 subjects received either 333 mg PTE or placebo in each meal. An added conclusion of this study is that PTE is a nonaddictive and safe food ingredient.

Battle of the Bulge Success in the New Year

This constitutes the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study revealing the reducing effects of PTE on mean BMI and body weight values in preobese or overweight humans. Not only that, PTE reduced waist circumference significantly after 12-weeks of ingestion, and without any adverse effects. If the study had continued, the effects in all likelihood would have been accumulative. Furthermore, this is also a promising method to control metabolic syndrome-induced obesity and arteriosclerosis.

So here’s an effective new positive habit that you can employ for winning the battle of the bulge in 2014 and in years thereafter. Salute!


  1. Cao ZH, Gu DH, Lin QY, Xu ZQ, Huang QC, Rao H, Liu EW, Jia JJ, Ge CR. Effect of pu-erh tea on body fat and lipid profiles in rats with diet-induced obesity. Phytother Res. 2011 Feb;25(2):234-8.
  2. Oi Y, Hou IC, Fujita H, Yazawa K. Antiobesity effects of Chinese black tea (Pu-erh tea) extract and gallic acid. Phytother Res. 2012 Apr;26(4):475-81.
  3. Kubota K, Sumi S, Tojo H, Sumi-Inoue Y, I-Chin H, Oi Y, Fujita H, Urata H. Improvements of mean body mass index and body weight in preobese and overweight Japanese adults with black Chinese tea (Pu-Erh) water extract. Nutr Res. 2011 Jun;31(6):421-8.
  4. Fujita H, Yamagami T. Extract of black tea (Pu-Erh) inhibits postprandial rise in serum cholesterol in mice, and with long term use reduces serum cholesterol and low density lipoprotein levels and renal fat weight in rats. Phytother Res. 2008;22:1275-81.
  5. Toris T, Satoh Y, Fujita H, Nagaoka T, Kawabata J. The structure and activity of Yunnan fermented tea on mixed bile salt micelles. Nippon Nougeikagakukaisi2007(Suppl):261.
  6. Kobayashi M, Ikegami H, Fujisawa T, Nojima K, Kawabata Y, Noso S, et al. Prevention and treatment of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes by bile acid–binding resin. Diabetes. 2007;56:239-47.
  7. Way TZ, Lin HY, Kuo DH. Pu-Erh tea attenuates hyperlipogenesis and induces hepatoma cells growth arrest through activating AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) in Human HepG2 cells. J Agric Food Chem 2009;57:5257-64.
  8. Hsu CL, Yen GC. Effect of gallic acid on high fat diet-induced dyslipidaemia, hepatosteatosis and oxidative stress in rats. Br J Nutr. 2007;98:727-35.
Will Block is the publisher and editorial director of Life Enhancement magazine.