A brisk tea diet: an American doctor has found the key to losing weight while eating what he pleases. His method: moderate exercise and drinking lots of tea

Ted Kreiter

While dining with his wife at a Chinese restaurant a year and a half ago, Dr. Liang-Chi Tao made a discovery that changed his life. It was after a course of lobster, the retired pathology professor recalls, that “a waiter brought us a bowl of reddish-brown liquid for our greasy fingers.” After the couple had rinsed their fingers in the liquid, Dr. Tao noticed something peculiar.

“To my amazement,” he says, “our fingers were all cleaned, but the liquid was not greasy.” Dr. Tao surmised there must be something in the reddish-brown fluid that gets rid of oil and fat. He asked the waiter what the fluid was. “Just ordinary Chinese `red’ tea” was the answer.

Dr. Tao began thinking. If tea can get rid of fatty oils in a bowl, he reasoned, then might it not work the same way in the gastrointestinal tract, removing excess fat?

He decided he would experiment with tea, using himself as a guinea pig. “I was about ten pounds overweight and still gaining, following my retirement,” he says. “I thought, I will just use tea to see if it can control my body weight.”

Dr. Tao devised a simple diet plan. He would eat the same as always, but he would drink tea in place of his usual beverages–including beer, soft drinks, and water.

Because the Chinese `red’ oolong tea was unavailable where he lived, he substituted black Lipton Brisk tea instead. “It is made from the same leaves as oolong tea,” he says. Each morning Dr. Tao prepared a ten-cup container of tea using five or six tea bags. He then drank the tea without milk or sugar along with meals and whenever he was thirsty.

He also began a program of mild exercise, walking about 30 minutes each day. Exercise had helped him lose pounds before, but he always had gained them back, he says.

After a short time on his new tea diet, Dr. Tao began noticing a difference. The effect was gradual, he says, but he definitely was losing weight. By the end of six weeks, he had lost the whole ten pounds. When he continued the diet, his weight remained constant. “After more than a year, I am still the same weight,” he says.

Now “very comfortable” with his tea diet, Dr. Tao continues to avoid other beverages while eating what he likes. Although he is sensitive to the caffeine in tea, he avoids sleeping problems by taking his last cup of tea at dinner and nothing after that.

Recently he recommended his tea diet to a workman who had come to install a gate at his house, When Dr. Tao saw the man again three months later, he had shed 20 pounds. “He’s very happy because he had tried different ways of reducing weight with no success in the past,” Dr. Tao says.

Although he has not studied tea, Dr. Tao speculates, “There are some chemicals in tea, such as tannins, which may combine with fatty oils to form some insoluble substance, which your body cannot absorb. Maybe that plays a role in flushing out the fatty oils you eat,” he says.

However tea might work, he believes its effects can be seen in people who customarily drink lots of tea. “Look at the Cantonese in southern China,” he says. “They eat those greasy foods all the time, but they always drink tea, and there are hardly any obese persons.”

Dr. Tao is not the first person to associate tea with weight loss. The Chinese traditionally have considered tea to have antiobesity effects. But only recently have scientists started to investigate the phenomenon.

Obese Chinese women who drank four cups of oolong tea per day lost more than a kilogram of body weight over a six-week period, according to a study published in a Japanese medical journal in 1998.

In France, moderately obese patients who were fed an extract of green tea decreased their body weight an average of 4.6 percent and their waist circumference an average of 4.48 percent after three months.”

Scientists have speculated that the caffeine in tea, which is known to increase the body’s metabolic rate, might play a role in causing weight loss. However, researchers have found metabolic effects from tea that go beyond those produced by caffeine alone.

Recently, Dr. William V. Rumpler and colleagues at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, studied the effect of oolong tea on metabolic rate and fat oxidation in men. They found that men drinking five cups of tea daily burned 12 percent more fat calories during a 24-hour period than men drinking water. The tea drinkers also burned more fat than a comparison group drinking caffeinated water, “so there is some evidence possibly that the secondary compounds in tea (or whatever it is about tea) seem to shift fuel use from [burning] carbohydrates to burning fat a little better,” Dr. Rumpler says. Similar results were found in an earlier study in England using green tea extract, he notes.

Dr. William Rumpler has been studying the antioxidant and other effects of the phytonutrients in tea, which research has suggested may help prevent heart disease and some forms of cancer. “There are a lot of possible good things about drinking tea that don’t have anything to do with weight,” he says. “But there are some studies that suggest that people who drink a lot of tea are thinner than people who don’t.” Still, he adds, “When people ask me if you can lower your body weight with tea, I have to tell them, `I don’t know.'”

“The problem,” says Dr. Rumpler, “is, there hasn’t been any really good comprehensive study done in the United States or in Europe that has set out to show whether long-term consumption of tea has any affect on body weight.” Nevertheless, he adds, “If I were going to guess, I would say that it probably does have an impact. But that would be just strictly my opinion.”

In addition to possibly shedding extra pounds, tea dieters may also be drinking in other healthful benefits. Dr. Tao reports that his previous “minor hypertension” has abated since he began his tea diet and that his blood pressure is now at normal levels. A lady in Texas who went on the tea diet wrote to say that she not only lost weight but also experienced a significant decline of about 14 points in her cholesterol level. The most recent studies show that flavonols in tea may prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol while leaving HDL (good) cholesterol levels unaffected. However, adding ice to tea may dilute its active ingredients.

A Tea Guide


(fermented, to be drunk plain or with milk or lemon)

Health Benefits: Strengthen immune system, promote digestion, inhibit growth or bacteria in mouth.

* Darjeeling, a delicate tea with a muscatel flavor, often referred to as the champagne of teas.

* Earl Grey, a scented blend with a delicate fragrance of oil of bergamot.

* Keemun, a sweet-flavored red liquor, often called the burgundy of teas.

* Ceylon, a delicate, bright tea with a smooth flavor. Excellent for iced tea.

* Lapsang Souchong, a large-leaf tea with a distinctive smoky flavor produced by smoking the tea over oak or pine chips. Serve hot without milk.


(non fermented, to be drunk plain)

Health Benefits: Rich in vitamin C, selenium (prevents aging), and flouride; lower blood pressure, promote digestion.

* Gunpowder, a fragrant yellow-green liquor made from pellet shapes of unfermented leaves produced in China. Used to brew mint tea in North Africa and Turkey.

* Lung Ching, also known as Dragon’s Well, a fragrant yellow liquor made up of leaf buds with a sweet taste.

* Yin Zhen, or Silver Needles, a white liquor of delicate sweetness from Fujian. Plucked two days a year when the leaves resemble silver needles; expensive, but contains no caffeine or tannin.

* Sencha, a clear green liquor rich in vitamin C.


(semifermented, to be drunk plain)

Health Benefit: Help lower cholesterol.

* Grand Pouchong Imperial, a delicate liquor, of an amber hue with a smooth, sweet taste.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Saturday Evening Post Society

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group

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