If you follow any celebrities or other influencers on Instagram, you’ve probably seen posts where the celeb is wearing a bikini or other revealing outfit and sipping on a cup of tea -- claiming that those flat abs came not from their personal trainer, a live-in chef, or plastic surgery, but from drinking a weight-loss tea with a cute-sounding name and pink packaging. You click through the post to a glossy website with amazing before-and-after pictures and positive reviews – and you probably wonder if it’s all for real.
Since January is the time of year when many people are working on New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or save money, we can help you achieve both: don’t waste your money on these teas that make a lot of promises but only make you spend more time in the bathroom.
New Packaging, Same Old Scam
Flat tummy teas are nothing new. If you’ve ever been to a botanica or even your local health food store, you’ve probably seen teas advertising amazing benefits, such as appetite suppression, fat burning, or natural detoxing for your body. These teas have been around for decades. They’re almost the exact same thing that you’re seeing now in your social media feeds, just with different marketing.
So, what’s in them?
Look at the side of the box, and you’ll probably see a lot of ingredients you’ve never heard of – and maybe some you have heard of. Like Senna, which is an FDA-approved laxative that can be purchased over the counter. Senna is what’s called a stimulant laxative, and it acts by revving up the activity of your intestines. Senna is so potent, one slimming tea even comes with a warning: “You should ensure that you have ready access to a toilet until you know how your body reacts…”
What the packaging doesn’t tell you is that it’s dangerous to take Senna for more than two weeks. Long-term use can cause your bowels to stop functioning normally, muscle weakness, and heart and liver damage.
Herbs that Make You Urinate More
Many of these teas also feature fresh-sounding ingredients, such as dandelion, juniper, parsley, and nettle. With ingredients like this, the tea has to be natural and wholesome, right? These are all herbs that have a diuretic effect: they increase the production of urine (you have to pee more).
Unfortunately, when you drink these teas, you’re not peeing out calories or pounds: you’re peeing out important nutrients like potassium and calcium. Too much, over the long term, can cause dehydration, dizziness, headaches, and muscle cramps.
Caffeine and Other Stimulants
Many weight loss teas also blend ingredients such as caffeine, green tea, guarana, and cayenne to deliver some extra kick (and they will also make you urinate more). These ingredients may boost your metabolism for a short period of time but don’t provide any long-lasting effects. It’s a combination that can be harmful to anyone with high blood pressure or heart conditions.
Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, and sleeplessness…which may actually be linked to weight gain.
At Best, These Teas are a Rip-off
Basically, the only thing these teas do is rev up your heart rate and make you spend a lot more time in the bathroom. The only weight you’re losing will quickly come back. And our bodies already have detoxification tools: our liver, kidneys, lungs, and skim are remarkably effective at removing so-called toxins.
At Worst, They Can Cause Long-Term Health Problems
These teas are not FDA-approved – that is, they are not studied or regulated by the American Food & Drug Administration, the federal agency that protects the public by surveying the effectiveness and safety of various foods, drugs, and cosmetics. They may interact with certain medications. They’re not safe to take in the long-term. If you dig a little deeper online, you’ll find reports of women experiencing explosive cramps and menstrual irregularities.
Stick to Proven Methods for Healthfully Losing Weight
Any remedy that seems too good to be true usually is. Fortunately, a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you shed pounds while increasing your overall level of health.
If it’s a flat stomach you’re after, there’s no such thing as spot reduction, but toned abs and back muscles can help you stand up straighter, which reduces the appearance of a gut (as well as keeps your back healthy and strong).
Regular tea can also be used in a healthy diet. Black, green, and oolong teas can give your energy a boost and may even fight high blood pressure and cholesterol. Before you start any new health or fitness program, check in with your doctor!