The brew for a slimmer you

As confetti and year-end revelry fades to a mere memory, legions of celebrants have begun regretting all the holiday confections they downed. A depressing trip to the scales has turned many to that age-old January tradition—dieting. Those needing a little extra help may want to add a new resolution this year: Drink green tea.

Japanese scientists have reported that both fish oil and the pungent compound responsible for chili peppers’ bite will turn on fat oxidation—the chemical conversion of flab to heat.

European scientists now find that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a flavonoid in green tea, does the same thing.

Abdul G. Dulloo of the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and his colleagues studied energy expenditure in 10 men. On three separate days, the scientists gave the volunteers two capsules with each meal and then measured how much energy they burned over the next 24 hours. On one day, the supplements held caffeine. On other days, they consisted of a placebo or the amount of EGCG in 2-3 cups of green tea.

Men burned about 4 percent more energy—some 80 additional calories—on the days they took the tea capsules, the team reports in the December 1999 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. More important, Dulloo notes, tea made the body preferentially burn fat.

Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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