Whether you’re trying to prevent eczema, lose weight or prevent heart disease, I’m pretty sure you’ve found your new favorite tea. And those aren’t the only oolong tea benefits you’ll love.
Is Oolong Tea Good for You?
Not to give away the ending, but the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Tea has been known to provide numerous health benefits for millennia, and oolong tea is no exception to this rule. One of the most commonly stated oolong tea benefits is weight loss, and it’s a scientifically supported claim.
Like green and black tea, oolong is brewed from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. While green tea is unfermented and black tea fully fermented, oolong finds the sweet spot in the middle during the fermentation process of Camellia sinensis leaves.
Oolong tea contains flavonoids, caffeine (although not as much as black tea), theanine and fluoride. Many oolong tea benefits are due in part to the presence of catechins, a particular type of flavonoid. The list of those benefits is not what you’d call short — oolong tea is associated with lower instances of heart disease, obesity and cancer; prevention of diabetes; a reduction in both inflammation and oxidative stress; increase in cognitive function; healthy skin and even healthy bones.
The health benefits of teas are so striking that research into their medically relevant effects has increased greatly in recent years. Because black tea accounts for 78 percent of tea consumption worldwide, green tea 20 percent and oolong tea remains as a mere 2 percent of the worldwide market, much research is focused on both green and black teas. However, oolong tea benefits are still the subject of a growing body of studies.
Whether you’re looking for oolong tea weight loss (and at zero calories per serving, who isn’t?) or interested in some of the other oolong tea benefits, this is a beverage worth adding to your diet.
Oolong Tea Benefits
1. Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
On a large scale, the consumption of oolong tea is associated with a decreased risk of death from heart disease.
For patients with coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease, oolong tea has been found to stop the spread of atherosclerosis, a regular feature of heart disease. After just a month of oolong consumption in one particular study, patients saw a significant decrease in the hardening and narrowing of the arteries.
Oolong tea also acts earlier in the process of the development of atherosclerosis by reducing the risk of dyslipidemia, the initial elevation of triglycerides, plasma cholesterol or both that first lead to the development of this disease. Patients consuming more than 600 milliliters of oolong tea each day found the most decreased risk, with a drop in overall cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides level for all patients consuming oolong tea regularly.
Extracts from oolong tea also help prevent cell death in heart muscle tissue, another reason oolong is the subject of a lot of research regarding heart health.
2. Helps Fight Obesity and Promote Weight Loss
Oolong tea weight loss has been at the center of a lot of discussion over the past several years, and for good reason.
Drinking oolong tea helps your body produce more heat, a process called thermogenesis, and thereby maintain or increase metabolism (the rate at which your body burns energy). This is especially important for people trying to lose weight, because there is typically a decrease in metabolism rates during the weight loss process. Recovering that loss is just one way oolong tea benefits and supports a healthy weight.
Regular oolong tea consumption also suppresses the production of new fat cells. It helps your body to burn fat faster.
Overall, there’s little doubt that oolong tea not only helps you lose weight in the short term, but also protects against obesity on a large, long-term scale with a consistently increased metabolism, reduction in fat and reduction in inflammation contributing to stubborn weight.
3. Lowers Risk of Cancer
Because it’s so high in antioxidants, oolong tea significantly impacts your risk for certain cancers, including ovarian and pancreatic cancer (although the pancreatic cancer risk has been mostly pronounced in the elderly and Chinese populations). Oolong tea also seems to have an impact on stopping the growth of melanoma.
The anticancer effects of tea are so great that the National Cancer Institute has even begun sharing this information with patients with the disease, showcasing tea’s standing as a cancer-fighting food.
4. Diabetes Prevention
The subject of diabetes is another important one in the quest to improve the health of the masses. Type 2 diabetes (the more common and diet-related form) is a metabolic disorder caused by high blood sugar and insulin resistance. An astounding 25 percent of the American population is prediabetic, and this is a completely reversible condition.
Introducing oolong tea into your diet is just one way to reverse diabetes naturally. In fact, this tea may help you prevent diabetes in the first place as well as serving a potential role in future diabetes medication development. There’s a substantial inverse association with consumption of oolong tea and type 2 diabetes risk.
Drinking oolong tea every day for at least a month has been shown to decrease blood glucose levels significantly in patients with diabetes as compared to those drinking only water and following the same diet.
5. High in Disease-Fighting Antioxidants
The way oolong tea benefits your body has a lot to do with the presence of antioxidants in every cup. Antioxidants found in large numbers in oolong tea are bioflavonoids, a common type of antioxidant found in many fruits and vegetables in addition to tea. Specifically, you can find myricetin, kaempferol and quercetin in oolong tea. These three share many effects, but quercetin (found most concentrated in oolong tea) is of special significance.
Together, the bioflavonoids in oolong tea work together to fight the aging process, cancer, heart disease, inflammation, allergies and even improve physical endurance.
6. Decreases Inflammation
When you can lower chronic inflammation by adjusting your diet, you stand a much better chance of preventing all kinds of diseases. That’s one reason the antioxidants found in oolong tea are so important. This tea targets specific inflammation-causing genes and signals to them to reduce inflammation.
7. Supports a Healthy Brain
Cognitive function is affected in both the short and long term by consuming oolong tea. Drinking tea, which contains both caffeine and L-theanine, nutrients known for their impact on brain function, correlates with a marked increase in visual information processing, attention levels, alertness and calmness within the first hour of consuming the beverage.
However, the more far-reaching importance of tea as it relates to brain health is its ability to slow or prevent cognitive decline associated with age. EGCG, a polyphenol found in teas, helps improve and maintain the function of the hippocampus, a part of the brain strongly linked to learning and memory.
Regularly drinking tea benefits older populations specifically by preventing cognitive decline and improving brain function.
When discussing age-related cognitive impairment, the “big one” people want to know about is generally Alzheimer’s. Drinking tea for Alzheimer’s actually may reduce your risk for this disease by up to 86 percent. This may be partly because of the presence of EGCG, but the disease-preventing effects of tea are complex and not just limited to one trait of the drink. In addition, the methods by which tea helps support the brain aren’t completely understood — it’s simply been found that tea does have its part in preventing cognitive impairment.
8. Prevents Bone Loss
When women go through menopause, one unfortunate but common problem, they’re left with is a continual weakening of the bones that leads to conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis. While the reasons why aren’t entirely clear, it seems that drinking oolong tea helps women who have experienced menopause maintain high bone density.
9. Reduces the Appearance of Eczema
The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis. There’s no total cure for eczema, although over-the-counter, prescription or homemade eczema cream may help decrease the appearance of the condition.
Diet plays a significant role in this condition, just like all others. In addition to eating less sugar and fried foods and introducing more healthy fats, high-fiber foods and probiotic foods into your diet, people who suffer from eczema should also consider drinking oolong tea.
In one study following patients for six months total, those drinking oolong tea three times daily saw moderate improvement in the appearance of eczema after one to two weeks. Five months after discontinuing consumption of oolong tea, over half of the participants still had the same decreased skin condition. Researchers contribute this effect to the anti-allergenic antioxidants found in the tea.
Oolong Tea vs. Black Tea vs. Green Tea vs. White Tea
All four common varieties of tea are derived from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences lie in the way they’re processed. Each tea has distinctive properties, but they generally share similar benefits. The levels of processing go as follows, from least processed to most: white tea, oolong tea, green tea and black tea.
What’s the same?
All four of these common teas contain tons of antioxidants to help you fight disease. The list is the same for each type, but the amounts of each differ in quantity.
Teas help you to fight cancer, diabetes, heart disease and aging. They also aid your brain and support strong bones.
White tea has the most acute immunity-boosting effects of the four common varieties. Black tea, on the other hand, aids more in digestion and stress relief. Green tea seems to help prevent Alzheimer’s to the highest degree, while oolong tea specifically helps to reduce eczema outbreaks. Green tea contains the smallest amount of caffeine.
How to Make Oolong Tea + Oolong Tea Recipes
When farmers harvest tea leaves for oolong production, the leaves go through a similar process as that of black tea, including the steps of withering, rolling, shaping and firing, although the time frames for these elements are different than black tea production. The final step, exclusive to oolong tea, is the baking or roasting phase.
To steep oolong tea, the general guideline is to use 3 grams of tea per 200 milliliters of water for 3–10 minutes. To retain the highest level of antioxidants, steep in water at about 194 degrees Fahrenheit (do not boil) for 3 minutes.
As this tea is already somewhat sweet, the addition of a little honey is usually all you need to bring it to perfection.
While oolong tea is delicious without anything added (or just a little honey), there are also some scrumptious ways to fancy it up:
- Try this Oolong Iced Tea Lemonade, sweetened with stevia, for a sweet and tangy treat.
- You can also try a simpler Oolong Iced Tea, sweetened with honey and guaranteed to refresh any day of the week.
- For a creamy option, I would recommend this Creamy Oolong Chai Iced Tea. In fact, this is an Alzheimer’s buster if I ever saw one.
History and Interesting Facts
The history of oolong tea can be traced as far back as the Ming Dynasty, which began in the mid-1300s. More than one legend claims to be the process by which oolong was discovered, although most authorities share two stories that may be the root.
One tale is of a farmer out picking tea leaves one day to brew into tea. In the middle of his harvesting, he saw a black snake (in Chinese, pronounce “wu long”) and ran to safety. The next day, the leaves had changed to a brownish-green color. The farmer chose to brew the leaves and was so delighted by the new flavor he found that he named this new tea after the snake that had scared him away.
In the second legend, a man named Wu Liang had gathered tea leaves when he discarded them in the search for a deer he had seen. Caught up in preparing his unexpectedly savory dinner, he forgot about the tea leaves until the next day. Similarly to the farmer story, Wu Liang brewed the partially oxidized leaves and discovered the beauty of oolong tea.
Like all teas, oolong tea is prepared from tea leaves originating in the Fujian province of China, although these plants are now produced in Taiwan, Darjeeling and Vietnam. Often, Chinese and Taiwanese varieties are considered to be superior to the others.
Potential Side Effects and Caution
Oolong tea is generally safe drink for most people, as it isn’t common to cause an allergic reaction. However, there are a few cautions to consider.
First of all, while most research supports the reduction in diabetes risk with regular oolong tea consumption, there are a few studies that suggest the opposite. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you should be under the consistent care of a physician to track any positive or negative changes in your condition.
There’s also a small but notable risk regarding the frequency of headaches as they correlate to caffeine.
Lastly, tea can decrease the amount of iron absorbed by your body. Generally, this is not something that would make a difference for most people. However, if you suffer from an iron deficiency, it’s probably best to greatly limit your oolong tea intake in order to prevent further iron issues.
Final Thoughts on Oolong Tea Benefits
- Oolong tea is a partially oxidized tea, creating a complex brew in between green and black tea.
- Some primary benefits of oolong tea are a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
- The antioxidants found in each serving also help to keep bones, teeth and skin healthy to add even more oolong tea benefits.
- A large body of research supports oolong tea weight loss. Oolong tea benefits weight maintenance by speeding your metabolism, promoting fat burn and staving off obesity.
- At an even higher rate than the other teas, oolong tea fights cognitive decline and helps prevent the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
- It’s not known for sure how oolong tea got its start, but the tea leaves grown in the Fujian province of China and in Taiwan are considered superior to other cultivars.
- It’s important to brew oolong tea for a short period of time and not bring water to a boil in order to maintain the antioxidant load.
THERE IS SO MUCH INTEREST IN WEIGHT LOSS AND OOLONG TEA, A.K.A. WULONG TEA, THAT WE ARE GOING TO LOOK AT RESEARCH SUPPORTING THE CONNECTION.
Let’s start at the beginning
All tea comes from one plantCamellia Sinensis if it doesn’t come from that plant it is not tea (herbs come from a variety of plants). Over time, the plant has protected itself from photosynthetic stressors by forming chemical compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols, which include flavonoids, have the same beneficial class of compounds, antioxidants, that make fruits and vegetables good for you.
The difference in green tea and oolong tea is processing. All tea is green when picked. Green tea is heated in order to halt the natural enzymatic reaction (oxidation) of the leaf. Once dried, green tea leaves are then rolled intentionally breaking the cell structure. Oolong tea leaves are plucked, kept under carefully controlled conditions and allowed to oxidize. These leaves are not intentionally broken, leaving most of the cell structure intact. These processing differences make each category of tea beneficially different even though they come from the same plant.
The Weight Loss Connection
The two main ways to reduce food related body weight are; increase energy expenditure (EE) and inhibit the absorption of nutrients, including fat and carbohydrates. Caffeine is a stimulant so it is widely accepted that the caffeine in tea increases metabolism, hence increasing EE. So the question becomes, is it only the caffeine or are other compounds in the tea contributing to that increase?
The Chinese have long believed that oolong tea is beneficial in reducing and maintaining weight. A Chinese study, in 1998, of 102 females showed that continuous consumption of oolong tea for six weeks resulted in a reduction of body weight. This study, along with the question of other compounds contributing to tea’s weight loss benefits, spurred further research.
In 2001, Physiologist Dr. William Rumpler, of the US Agriculture Research Services’ Diet and Human Laboratory, investigated the ancient Chinese belief that oolong tea is effective in controlling body weight. The study measured how tea influences energy expenditure (EE) and included 12 male volunteers who were given 4 separate beverage formulas over three consecutive days. The beverage formulas consisted of; 1) full strength oolong tea, 2) caffeinated water with caffeine equal to full strength oolong tea, 3) half strength oolong tea and 4) non caffeinated water.
The participants 24 hour EE was measured and resulted in;
|•||EE levels of about 3% higher when they drank either the full strength oolong tea or the caffeinated water versus the non-caffeinated water.|
|•||Participants burned an average of 67 more calories per day when drinking the full strength oolong tea.|
|•||Participants increased fat oxidation (fat burning) by a whopping 12% after consuming the full strength oolong tea versus the caffeinated water.|
|•||This data confirms that a component other than caffeine is responsible for promoting the preferential use of fat as an energy source.|
The increase in fat oxidation in this study is amazing! Drinking oolong tea can actually tell your body to burn fat for energy! Scientists then speculated that caffeine combined with EGCGs worked together to increase fat oxidation.
A Japanese study, conducted in 2003, went one step further comparing the benefits of oolong tea and green tea on weight reduction. Eleven healthy young female students participated in this well controlled study. Participants received three different beverage formulas; 1) oolong tea, 2) powdered green tea leaves and 3) water.
Both teas were prepared with boiling water. The oolong tea steeped for five minutes and the powdered green tea leaves were dissolved.
After measurements were taken, the results determined;
|•||Oolong tea had higher EE levels from beginning to end and at intervals of 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes.|
|•||EE levels peaked at 90 minutes for both oolong and green tea and remained at their respective levels until 120 minutes.|
|•||These results indicate that after consuming oolong tea you will expend more energy then if you were to drink green tea or water and that it can last up to two hours.|
The concentrations of caffeine, individual catechins and other polyphenols were also measured producing these interesting findings;
|•||The caffeine and EGCG content was much higher in the green tea versus the oolong tea.|
|•||The concentration of polymerized polyphenols was significantly higher in the oolong tea versus the green tea.|
These findings show that it’s the polymerized polyphenols, highest in oolong tea, that link tea to burning fat, not just the caffeine or just the combination of caffeine and EGCGs. Furthermore, the rest of the compounds compared in the teas were similar or equal to one another with no marked differences, reinforcing the results.
We have shown that oolong tea significantly increases EE for up to as much as 120 minutes and can even promote preferential use of fat as an energy source making it a healthy tool for reducing and maintaining weight. So what about absorption of nutrients?
Oolong tea’s effect on blocking the absorption of fats and carbohydrates is thought to play a key role in its weight reducing benefits. While more studies need to be done, initial studies indicate that oolong tea has absorption blocking potential.
There are proven methods for losing weight and keeping it off; exercise, getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet. Oolong tea can enhance these positive changes and garner faster results.
Let’s Face It
|•||Oolong tea is not a quick fix despite the recent advertising claims by slick marketing “professionals.”|
|•||Oolong tea does not have to be expensive to be effective.|
|•||$39.95 is too much to pay for a 30 day supply of low quality oolong, get what you pay for.|
|•||These studies do not indicate that oolongs grown in a specific area are better fat burners than other oolongs. It’s the processing that counts.|
|•||Losing 20 lbs in 30 days by adding two cups of oolong tea to your daily routine is nothing more than hype. If this were true, I’d be a size 2.|
|•||If you were dieting, drinking oolong and exercising it would be hard to achieve that much weight loss in 30 days.|
|•||If it sounds too good to be true, then it is to good to be true!|
Oolong – The Facts
|•||Oolong teas taste great and are delicious hot or cold.|
|•||There is a tremendous variety of affordable oolong tea.|
|•||Enjoy a cup of oolong 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to your walk, workout or yoga session and reap the rewards!|
|•||Drink oolong in the afternoon to stave off late day sweet cravings and energy slumps.|
|•||All of these aid in healthy weight loss and maintenance.|