Green tea extract linked to liver failure: “If you take enough of it, it can kill you”

Green tea has been used for centuries to boost energy levels, fight back against common illness, and even as a staple in skin and hair care routines.(1) We drink it, cook with it, and rub it on our faces more than any other tea in the world. But has our obsession with green tea become too much of a good thing? The death of a Canadian woman from liver failure after taking green tea extract points to yes.

Joyce’s Story

Joyce Boudreau-Hearn of Nova Scotia died at the age of 55 of complications from liver failure after taking green tea extract, which was sold to her as a weight loss supplement. According to her daughter, Jocelyn Stewart, she was perfectly healthy before taking the pills.

“It says green tea extract – most of us link that to healthy,” Stewart told CBC News. “You think you will lose a few pounds, she lost her life.”

What is Green Tea Extract?

Green Tea Extract (GTE) is a supplement that has taken the polyphenols from green tea leaves and concentrated them in pill form. These polyphenols, called catechins, are the antioxidants that give green tea its health-boosting benefits. (2) Makers of GTEs claim that these supplements will help users lose weight and keep it off by increasing fat metabolism and energy expenditure, marketing them as a magic bullet pill that will help them lose weight with minimal effort.

These claims, however promising they sound, are misleading. While the catechins in combination with the caffeine in green tea have shown to have small positive effect in weight loss and management (3), most of these studies have limitations that contraindicate their findings. Enhanced fat metabolism has only demonstrated effects in vitro, not in human trials. (4)

Since 2006, more than 50 cases of acute liver injury with jaundice linked to GTE usage have been reported. The cause yet us not known, but could be due to possible contamination with toxic elements, unknown herbs, or in some cases, conventional Western medications. (4)

Dr. Sean Wharton, medical director of several publically funded weight loss clinics, calls green tea extract “hope in a bottle”, a short-cut to a more desired silhouette with potentially dangerous health consequences.

Healthy Weight Loss

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The truth is, there is no such thing as cutting corners in weight loss. Dropping the pounds – and keeping them off – requires a change in lifestyle, focusing on proper nutrition and increasing daily physical activity. There are several easy changes you can start today to help you reach your weight loss goals.

4 Lifestyle Changes You Can Start Right Now

Eat Breakfast

You’ve probably heard the breakfast called the most important meal of the day a thousand times, but before you roll your eyes and skip to the next tip, hear us out. Eating breakfast has been proven to help reduce hunger and make healthier food choices throughout your day. People who eat breakfast have also shown to have more energy than those who do not, and therefore are more likely to participate in physical activity. (5)

Eat Your Veggies First

Take your plate and fill half of it with vegetables, especially leafy greens. Not only will you now be eating more of the most nutrient-packed foods mother nature has to offer, but you will also fill up on veggies instead of the calorie dense processed grains and hydrogenated oils that make up the typical American diet.

Drink a Glass of Water in the Morning

Dehydration has been linked to weight gain, primarily because when we are dehydrated we become lethargic and tired. Our brains confuse this as a sign that we are hungry when we are actually only thirsty.(6) Drinking more water will help you squelch false hunger cues, even after you have had a meal. Start with one glass before breakfast to rehydrate after sleeping – you will instantly feel more energized for your day.

Take a Walk on Your Lunch Break

A typical day for most North Americans is sitting in the car, sitting at the office, back in the car, then sitting at home. Even for those of us who go to the gym, working out for one hour a few days each week is not enough to combat the number of hours we spend sitting. Taking 10-15 minutes (or more!) out of your lunch break and going for a walk each day will not only keep you more active, but it will also stretch your legs, clear your mind, and have a more productive afternoon.

Do Your Research

A story like Joyce’s reminds us of the importance of fully researching and talking to your doctor before you begin taking any new supplements, even if they are marketed as “natural”. In this case, less is not always more: Herbs, vitamins, and minerals found in nature can be dangerous and even fatal when taken at high concentrations.

The Hearty Soul

The Hearty Soul

The Hearty Soul is one of the world’s largest health information hubs. We connect regular people with cutting-edge research and the insights of medical professionals.
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