The Science of Pu-Erh Tea: Why and How It Can Help For Your Weight Loss Journey

Losing weight is not as easy as it seems. Sometimes, no matter how much you diet and exercise, it may just not be enough. Well, if you are one of those people, then Pu-erh Tea might be the solution to your struggles.


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Pu-Erh Tea is an exceptional kind of Tea traditionally fermented and produced in China's Yunnan Province. It is made from the leaves and stems of a plant known as Camellia sinensis. Unlike all other Teas, Pu-erh Tea is commonly produced via two stages. The first stage involves preparing the Tea, similar to a typical green tea. The second stage lets the leaves and stems undergo fermentation and then store the product for a long time under extreme humidity in a process called aging. The second stage is done to produce a fuller and better taste.  

Other than its unique taste, Chinese people have been drinking this Tea to aid in losing a few kilograms for many years. But the question is, why and how does the Pu-Erh Tea help you lose some weight? To understand the science behind its weight loss abilities and to know if it's ideal for you, keep on reading! 

The Why and The How: 

Studies have shown that consumption of Pu-erh has resulted in numerous health benefits, including weight loss. However, the exact mechanism of weight loss is still being studied up until this day. But what does science exactly say on why and how Pu-Erh Tea aids in weight loss? Here are the possible answers: 

  • Helps in suppressing lipogenesis or the creation of fat

    A study conducted by Ding et al. in 2015 has shown that Pu-erh Tea can down-regulate the expression of a gene known as master fat regular SBP-1. This gene is considered a homologue of sterol regulatory element-binding protein and its target stearoyl-CoA desaturase, which are crucial enzymes in the biosynthesis of fat. The downregulation of SBP-1 fat regulator protein results in a higher ratio of stearic acid to oleic acid, subsequently decreasing fat storage. Furthermore, the same researchers also noted in animal studies that Pu-Erh Tea could reduce the pharyngeal pumping rate and food uptake, which all collectively minimize fat storage.

  • Reduces cholesterol levels, specifically Low-Density Lipoprotein-C levels (LDL)

    It must be noted that obesity, more specifically abdominal obesity, has a significant connection with dyslipidemia observed as an increase in Triglycerides, Low-Density Lipoprotein-C, and a decrease in High-Density Lipoprotein-C concentration. This dyslipidemia causes anomalous storage and production of fat, which then increases the total body weight. It must also be noted that a high level of triglycerides and cholesterol, particularly LDL-C, is considered an independent risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.

    Cao et al. in 2011 studied the anti-obesity and antihyperlipidemic effects of Pu-Erh Tea in rats with high fat diet-induced obesity. According to this research, the diet-induced obese rats that were administered with Pu-Erh Tea had considerably decreased total plasma cholesterol, Triglycerides, and LDL-C levels. This anti-obesity effect of Pu-Erh Tea may be linked to an observed stimulated lipolysis by increasing the activities of Lipoprotein Lipase, Hepatic Lipase, and Hormone Sensitive Lipase.

    Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) and hepatic lipase (HL) have a fundamental function in the metabolism of lipoproteins. Lipoprotein lipase hydrolyzes triacylglycerol in circulating lipoproteins, including VLDL and Chylomicrons. Subjacent tissues then utilize the free fatty acids produced by hydrolysis. These free fatty acids are then used for storage, re-esterification, fuel for energy, or for re-transport in the future. Hepatic lipase is responsible for composing all lipoprotein classes through the hydrolysis of phospholipids and triglycerides. Lastly, Hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL) is an enzyme that possesses adrenaline- or epinephrine-induced lipolytic activity in adipose tissue. HSL is initiated by lipolytic hormones, including ACTH, catecholamines, glucagon, and isoproterenol. HSL is regulated through various hormonal pathways and acts on adipocytes for the hydrolysis of fat, leading to the liberation of free fatty acids into the bloodstream. Research shows that Pu-Erh Tea can stimulate LPL, HL, and HSL activities in fat tissue, contributing to lower plasma triglyceride and LDL levels, which aid in weight loss.

  • Increases High-Density Lipoprotein-C concentration

    HDL-C is vital in transporting excess cholesterol to the liver for excretion in the bile. It is usually suggested to be the "good cholesterol" because of its seeming opposite association with potential cardiovascular disease risk. Obesity and increased weight are frequently characterized by dyslipidemia, manifested by increased plasma triglycerides and decreased plasma levels of high-density lipoprotein-C particles.

    Hou et al., in 2009, conducted a study wherein animal subjects were given Pu-Erh tea extracts daily. The study showed an increase in the levels of high-density lipoprotein C in animals administered with daily Pu-erh extract. Increased HDL levels can help transport excess cholesterol to the liver, which then reduces the enhancement of uptake of cholesterol by adipocytes, resulting in weight loss. Also, an increase in HDL-C can provide cardioprotective benefits.

  • Helps in correcting the gut microbiota

    Besides dyslipidemia and fat accumulation, several scientific studies have observed that obesity is associated with dysbiosis in the gut microflora.

    As stated above, Pu-erh Tea undergoes a post-fermentation process. A study conducted by Ye et al. in 2021 has provided evidence of the correlation between gut microbiota and Pu-Erh Tea. Due to the numerous microbes involved in the post-fermentation process, Pu-Erh Tea comprises extremely complex factors, which significantly impact the gut microbiomes. The tea fermentation process results in tea polyphenols oxidation slowly intensifying. Also, during the same process, some polymers with higher molecular weights are made, which hampers the absorption of tea polyphenols directly by the gastrointestinal tract and permits their entry into the ileum or colon. These tea polyphenols can interact with Gut microbiomes. Researchers administered Pu-erh tea extract powder to high-fat diet-induced obese mice. The mice's weight gain and fat accumulation declined considerably, and the organization of gut microbiomes in these subjects changed appreciably.

    In addition to that, Pu-Erh tea extract also strongly augmented the variety of intestinal microbes and altered the richness of some microorganisms. Pu-Erh Tea significantly decreased the ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes in subject animals, which was positively correlated with obesity. The study showed that the bioactive components of Pu-erh Tea have a role in improving the intestinal environment. Pu-Erh can improve intestinal permeability, reduce inflammation, and increase Short-chain Fatty acid levels by influencing the Gut microbiota, which all eventually lead to weight loss.


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  • Increased levels of Gallic Acid

    Gallic acid, a natural phytochemical also known as 3,4,5-trihydroxy benzoic acid, is recognized to have a range of cellular purposes, such as beneficial impacts on metabolic syndromes. Studies have shown that Pu-Erh Tea contains a high amount of Gallic Acid. Furthermore, the concentration of Gallic Acid in Pu-Erh is considerably elevated because of the de-esterification of the 3-galloyl-substituted catechins by either native esterase or oxidative degradation during the Pu-erh Tea fermentation process.

    According to the study of Yasuyuki et al. in 2012, Pu-Erh tea, through its active component Gallic Acid, suppressed body weight gain in diet-induced obese animal models. In addition to that, the abundance of gallic acid in Pu-Erh tea also resulted in the strong inhibition of pancreatic lipase activity. Furthermore, it also significantly inhibited the post-prandial elevation of the blood triglyceride levels. It must be noted that the number of adipose tissues is strongly linked with body weight. So, it is highly suggested that the decrease of the body weight gain by Pu-Erh tea, through Gallic Acid, might be due to the suppression of body fat accumulation by these substances. Hence, the researchers concluded that Gallic Acid intensely contributes to the anti-obesity effect of Pu-Erh Tea as one of its active components through impeding pancreatic lipase actions.

In conclusion: 

Pu-Erh Tea is a well-known traditional beverage mainly produced in Yunnan Province, China. This Tea is usually categorized as a post-fermented tea. Pu-Erh Tea has been utilized for years by people around the globe because of the claimed multiple health benefits, including its advantage to weight loss. 

Recently, research on drinking Pu-erh Tea on weight loss has been widely studied. Several studies have concluded that Pu-Erh Tea can aid in weight loss through suppressing lipogenesis, reducing cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels, lowering the atherogenic index, increasing the high-density lipoprotein-total cholesterol ratio inducing the level of high-density lipoproteins and the progression of steatosis, impacting the intestinal environment, and increasing the levels of gallic acid. These research findings show the science behind the why and the how of Pu-Erh Tea helping weight loss.

The pieces of evidence presented above prove that Pu-Erh Tea can be an ideal supplement to your weight loss regimen. So, if you follow a proper diet, exercise, together with the help of Pu-Erh Tea, you can be assured that you will be able to lose a few of those kilograms. 

References: 

  1. Bak EJ, Kim J, Jang S, Woo GH, Yoon HG, Yoo YJ, Cha JH. Gallic acid improves glucose tolerance and triglyceride concentration in diet-induced obesity mice. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2013 Dec;73(8):607-14. doi: 10.3109/00365513.2013.831470. PMID: 24219649.
  2. Chiesa ST, Charakida M. High-Density Lipoprotein Function and Dysfunction in Health and Disease. Cardiovasc Drugs Ther. 2019;33(2):207-219. doi:10.1007/s10557-018-06846-w
  3. Ding Y, Zou X, Jiang X, et al. Pu-erh tea down-regulates sterol regulatory element-binding protein and stearyol-CoA desaturase to reduce fat storage in Caenorhaditis elegans. PLoS One. 2015;10(2):e0113815. Published 2015 Feb 6. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113815
  4. Hou Y, Shao W, Xiao R, Xu K, Ma Z, Johnstone BH, Du Y. Pu-erh tea aqueous extracts lower atherosclerotic risk factors in a rat hyperlipidemia model. Exp Gerontol. 2009 Jun-Jul;44(6-7):434-9. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2009.03.007. Epub 2009 Apr 5. PMID: 19348878.
  5. Huang F, Wang S, Zhao A, Zheng X, Zhang Y, Lei S, Ge K, Qu C, Zhao Q, Yan C, Jia W. Pu-erh Tea Regulates Fatty Acid Metabolism in Mice Under High-Fat Diet. Front Pharmacol. 2019 Feb 5;10:63. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2019.00063. PMID: 30804786; PMCID: PMC6370627.
  6. Klop B, Elte JW, Cabezas MC. Dyslipidemia in obesity: mechanisms and potential targets. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1218-1240. Published 2013 Apr 12. doi:10.3390/nu5041218
  7. Yasuyuki Oi; I-Ching Hou; Hiroyuki Fujita; Kazunaga Yazawa (2012). Antiobesity Effects of Chinese Black Tea (Pu-erh Tea) Extract and Gallic Acid. , 26(4), 475–481.doi:10.1002/ptr.3602 
  8. Ye, J., Zhao, Y., Chen, X., Zhou, H., Yang, Y., Zhang, X., Huang, Y., Zhang, N., Lui, E.M., & Xiao, M. (2021). Pu-erh tea ameliorates obesity and modulates gut microbiota in high fat diet fed mice. Food research international, 144, 110360 .
  9. Zhen-Hui Cao; Da-Hai Gu; Qiu-Ye Lin; Zhi-Qiang Xu; Qi-Chao Huang; Hua Rao; Er-Wei Liu; Jun-Jing Jia; Chang-Rong Ge (2011). Effect of Pu-erh tea on body fat and lipid profiles in rats with diet-induced obesity. , 25(2), 0–0. doi:10.1002/ptr.3247  

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