BACKGROUND: Current interest in the role of functional foods in weight control has focused on plant ingredients capable of interfering with the sympathoadrenal system.
OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether a green tea extract, by virtue of its high content of caffeine and catechin polyphenols, could increase 24-h energy expenditure (EE) and fat oxidation in humans.
DESIGN: Twenty-four-hour EE, the respiratory quotient (RQ), and the urinary excretion of nitrogen and catecholamines were measured in a respiratory chamber in 10 healthy men. On 3 separate occasions, subjects were randomly assigned among 3 treatments: green tea extract (50 mg caffeine and 90 mg epigallocatechin gallate), caffeine (50 mg), and placebo, which they ingested at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
RESULTS: Relative to placebo, treatment with the green tea extract resulted in a significant increase in 24-h EE (4%; P < 0.01) and a significant decrease in 24-h RQ (from 0.88 to 0.85; P < 0.001) without any change in urinary nitrogen. Twenty-four-hour urinary norepinephrine excretion was higher during treatment with the green tea extract than with the placebo (40%, P < 0.05). Treatment with caffeine in amounts equivalent to those found in the green tea extract had no effect on EE and RQ nor on urinary nitrogen or catecholamines.
CONCLUSIONS: Green tea has thermogenic properties and promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by its caffeine content per se. The green tea extract may play a role in the control of body composition via sympathetic activation of thermogenesis, fat oxidation, or both.