Can Mate Really Help You Lose Weight?
-- Let's Look at the Evidence
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May 30, 2016
By A. Weinberg, Contributing Columnist
Yerba mate: To those living on the North American continent it's a
strange concept. A hot tea you drink with a straw. But you don't drink
just one cup, you drink several, with a thermos. And, you don't exactly
drink it in a cup, but more of a pumpkin gourd. And you share it with
people. True, mate can be consumed in many different ways, as a
traditional tea or in powder format, but in its places of origin—
Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil—this is the most common method.
Mate as a drink is made from the leaves of the mate tree and originates
from the above-mentioned South American countries. Indigenous
tribes consumed it for rejuvenation, clarity, and vitality.
Yerba mate certainly is a vital drink, containing 24 minerals and
vitamins/antioxidants and 15 amino acids. Potassium, magnesium and
manganese are the minerals with the highest concentrations in yerba
mate. (Read more about how magnesium is especially important for a
It also has a kind of caffeine, or what some people call “mateine”, but it
certainly isn't the same as ingesting liters of coffee. Mate doesn't cause
stress on the heart; it actually oxygenates it. Drinking mate produces
sustained energy, not a spike and drop, like many espresso products.
The newest buzz is that it can help us lose weight, too. As I type this, I
have a little cup of mate to accompany me in my workday, not exactly
to slim down, but more for productivity. But, hey, if I can get thin
simultaneously, I'll take it.
Let's look at what the scientists have to say about mate's effects on the
Burn, Baby, Burn
We live in a society that is relatively sedentary and where fatty food is
easy to come by. Exercise and an active lifestyle helps, but it never
hurts to have a little something extra to burn calories.
Lately, researchers are looking at what effect mate has on a high-fat
In the mate-friendly country of Brazil in the year 2013, Dr. M.C. Borges
took a look at what effect an aqueous extract of mate tea (
Ilex paraguariensis) would have on Wistar rats. These rodents were
split into two groups, where one was fed a control diet and the other a
high-fat diet, for twelve weeks.
At the end of this period, those fed the high-fat diet received daily
doses of yerba mate for four weeks.
Results were positive. Yerba mate not only promoted weight loss, and
reduced the detrimental effects of adiposity and insulin-sensitivity. This
has great implications for those at risk for diabetes and to those being
fed lots of cake on the weekends (Have some mate with that cake.)
Mate has even been tested to treat things as severe as obesity. In
2012, Dr. Y.R. Kang and colleagues from the Horet Company used in
vivo-models of dietary-induced obesity, and tested what effects mate
had on it.
They made several important and positive discoveries. Yerba mate
decreased the differentiation of preadipocytes and reduced the
accumulation of lipids in adipocytes. A lower growth of adipose tissue
means lower body weight and less obesity.
In addition, yerba mate affected food intake, which implies higher
energy expenditure, and when metabolising lipids (fats), there was a
reduction in serum cholesterol, serum triglycerides, and glucose
concentrations. Great news for everybody struggling with extra weight.
We often think of weight-loss plans as sacrifice and deprivation, but
mate is a delicious way to accompany your daily meals. It can also be
combined with many other flavors. Right now, I am drinking it with
mint tea and ginger on top. You can also slurp it plain (it's good bitter)
or with a little sugar. Search the internet for recipes, or come up with
your own creative ones. It also satisfies that urge to snack on
something or drink something, because unlike coffee, where one cup
and you're done, it's something you drink over a period of time.
Work Out Hard, Play Hard, Keep Drinking Mate Like It's Your Job
Scientific tests have also been conducted on humans, specifically the
athletic types. Dr. A. Alkhatib, from the Sheffield Hallam University in
the U.K., wanted to know if yerba mate helps burn more calories during
In 2014, he and his colleagues tested 14 healthy males and females.
They were given either 1000 mg of yerba mate or a placebo capsule 60
minutes before performing 2 incremental exercise ergometry tests.
The power output was initiated at and increased by 0.5w Kg (-1) of
body weight for every three-minute stage, until reaching peak oxygen
uptake. The researchers tested fatty acid oxidation and energy
expenditure derived from fatty acid oxidation.
At the end of the experiment, they found that both had increased by
24% in all submaximal exercise intensities below 70%. So, what does
this mean? Not only is mate effective for weight loss, but also for sports
performance. Eat cake, kick around a soccer ball, and bring along your
Further studies reveal that mate combined with other ingredients can
also help out when exercising.
Dr. M. Seijo from the University of Albertay in the United Kingdom
tested out a product called Shred Matrix, which is a combination of
green tea Extract, yerba maté, guarana seed extract, anhydrous
caffeine, Saw palmetto, Eleuthero root, Fo-Ti, Cayenne pepper, and
In 2015, Seijo and colleagues tested this product's effect on fatty acid
oxidation, perception of hunger, mood state, and rate of perceived
exertion, at rest and during 30 minutes of submaximal exercise. 12
healthy, active participants (five females and seven males) did two
separate experimental ergonometry trials, and beforehand they
ingested 1.5 mg (3 capsules) of either Shred Matrix or a placebo.
First, they rested for three hours, then performed a 30-minute cycling
test. The researchers tested fatty acid oxidation three hours before
exercise, immediately after exercise, and during exercise.
The rate of perceived exertion was measured every 3 minutes during
exercise, and mood states and perception of hunger were assessed 3
hours before exercise, right before exercise, and post-exercise. Results
were heartening: With the supplement, fatty acid oxidation increased
before exercise, the rate of perceived exertion was lower, and the
feelings of satiety increased.
This has great implications for both our beloved Ilex paraguariensis
and new cocktail mixes for the future. Green tea is another substance
with similar effects to yerba mate, and further research may reveal that
the two together have even greater benefits. Who knows.
Buying already established supplements is an option, but it's also
possible to make your own. You can combine green tea into your mate
by simply putting a tea bag on top, or infusing water with green tea
leaves and pouring it over mate.
Any Side Effects to Yerba Mate?
This is controversial. Die-hard mate fans will tell you the studies don't
have so much to do with mate itself, but surrounding factors. Like
always, the thing to do is consult your doctor and try a little for
yourself to see what happens. Mate in moderation will not kill you.
However, for the sake of balanced journalism, here are a few concerns
people have had about drinking mate.
A July 2003 article in the medical journal “Head and Neck” claimed that
it was a potential contributor to cancer in the upper intestinal tract and
mouth, throat, and esophagus.
Many people refute this idea, saying that it is more a result of ingesting
hot water, rather than yerba mate itself. A 1976 report in the Journal
of Clinical Pathology spoke about the concerns of an overdose of mate
possibly leading to liver disease. The recommended dose of mate is no
more than 1.5 liters per day, but there have been no conclusive reports
that drinking more will cause harm.
If you already have high blood pressure or are sensitive to stimulants,
don't drink too much. Pregnant? Drink the recommended 1.5 to 3
milligrams of caffeine or less per day, and you're fine.
Happy yerba slurping, everyone.
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