Why do South Americans swear by Yerba Mate as an aid for weight loss?
Drinking Yerba Mate is a tradition that originated with the Guarani Indians who lived in Paraguay/Brazil. They used it, amongst other medicinal uses to help control the appetite and maintain a healthy weight. Was this just legend or can this tea really be used to aid weight loss?
Yerba mate is of interest to the food market with respect to its possible use as a slimming aid for weight loss. Research by the food industry and universities in South America and the USA is extensive however this research is yet to be officially approved in Europe.
What we do know, is that Yerba Mate does contain several vitamins/minerals in significant quantities** that contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism and a reduction of fatigue and tiredness:
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflabin (B2)
- Pantothenic Acid (B5)
- Pryridosin (B6)
In addition, some of these minerals also have an impact on our bodies in such a way that is necessary for us to be able to be mobile and active which has a knock on effect in aiding weight loss: Calcium is needed for the maintenance of normal bones and muscle function; Iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells, haemoglobin and the normal transport of oxygen around the body; Magnesium contributes to electrolyte balance and protein synthesis.
The research that has been carried out theorises exactly how and if yerba mate can aid weight loss, and several reasons have been suggested. Below are listed some of the key research experiments, together with links to more information for further reading:
Weight loss is aided if the appetite is suppressed! In the countries where yerba mate is a way of life, the typical daily meal plan is lunch at 12 midday, and the evening meal at 10-11pm. During the afternoon, it is usual to only sip yerba mate, with some crackers. How do they cope with an early lunch and late evening meal each day without suffering from hunger in between?
It has been hypothesised that the appetite can be suppressed by inhibiting fatty acid synthase (FAS) an enzyme known to catalyse the synthesis of long fatty acids from acetyl coenzyme A and malonyl-CoA. Research has been carried out to link yerba mate to this process – further reading here.
Thermogensis is the production of heat within the human body. This can be non-food related e.g. shivering, but there is a suggested list of foods that are considered to be ‘warming’ and increase thermogenesis, amongst them: bitter orange, ginger and caffeine. For general reading on Thermogenesis, read here, and for info into research specifically linking yerba mate to thermogenesis, read here.
Delayed Gastric Emptying
Gastric emptying is the process by which food leaves the stomach and enters the duodenum. It is related to weight loss by way of feeling full, and lower absorption of calories. This phenomena can be a natural disorder, meaning your body naturally moves food slowly through the digestive system, and can lead to loss of appetite and unwanted weight loss.
Research has been carried out to see if yerba mate, or a mixture of South American herbs such as Guarana and Damiana can caused delayed gastric emptying. Initial results did show drastic delayed gastric emptying, but of course further research would be required to be conclusive. Further reading here.
It has been suggested that Yerba Mate increases bile flow, thus improving digestion. A 2001 study by Susana Gorzelczany and her team at the University of Pharmacology in Buenos Aires found a positive correlation between the administration of yerba mate (and 3 other variant plants that are closely related) and bile flow. Further reading here.
It is reasonable to make the connection between higher energy and activity levels to the maintenance of a healthy weight. So why is it so hard sometimes to get motivated to do some exercise and live an active lifestyle?
Yerba mate is a source of Pantothenic Acid which has been shown to contribute to a normal energy-yielding metabolism, normal mental performance, reduction of tiredness and fatigue, and also contributes to the synthesis and metabolism of steroid hormones, vitamin D andsome neurotransmitter. A typical 50g portion of yerba with stems has 3.3mg of Pantothenic Acid, equivalent to 66% of the recommended daily allowance.*
Several other vitamins/minerals are also present in significant quantities, many of which contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism and the reduction of fatigue, such as riboflavin, pryridosin, magnesium and iron.
Yerba mate is a source of caffeine. The caffeine in yerba mate is referred to as ‘matteina’ but its the same as the caffeine found in other drinks more well known such as coffee.
Yerba mate is not a miracle cure for obesity, nor will you simply shed those extra pounds just by drinking it.. but for centuries it has been used as a herbal remedy for weight loss, and is a tasty, interesting tea, so why not try some?! Browse our range here.
* Typical example of calorific content: Taragui Roja
** Significant defined as 100g containing at least 15% of the recommended daily intake as outlined in EU Directive 90/496/EEC. Vitamin and mineral list taken from standard original yerba mate (those with ingredients 100% pure yeba mate with no added vitamins/minerals) of the most popular brands: Pajarito, Rosamonte, Sara, Canarias, Taragui