Can 'detox teas' like Teami help you lose weight?

They call her "Cardi Bardi, banging bo...

Posted: Aug 14, 2018 3:59 PM
Updated: Aug 14, 2018 3:59 PM

They call her "Cardi Bardi, banging body / Spicy mami, hot tamale" -- and she's got an image to maintain.

Cardi B would like for her 30 million Instagram followers to believe she's able to do that thanks in part to Teami, "all-natural loose leaf teas" that are sold online and endorsed by a growing chorus of high-profile celebrities, who echo some questionable health claims about the products.

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The rapper, who skyrocketed to fame last year with her smash hit "Bodak Yellow," gave birth to her first child on July 10. She now says she's trying to lose her baby weight and get back in shape, like many new moms. But no surprise to her legions of fans, Cardi is doing that in her own way: online and unfiltered.

"Ya ain't seeing my body till i snap back," she wrote on Instagram late last month. "This @teamiblends gonna do the work !!!"

The post did not contain a hashtag (such as #ad or #spon) indicating that it had been sponsored, as encouraged by the Federal Trade Commission. Representatives for Cardi B did not respond to an email asking whether she received any compensation from Teami for her post. Teami also declined to say whether it paid Cardi for the social media shout-out.

The very next night brought another Teami endorsement, this time from one of Instagram's most followed accounts, Kylie Jenner (with 113 million followers and counting). Jenner, who Forbes says is poised to become the world's youngest self-made billionaire, posted: "#ad I started the @teamiblends 30 day detox program because they promote a healthy lifestyle and it is important for me to feel my best. I'm on day 7 right now... I have way more energy and it is like a magic tea to get rid of tummy bloat."

Celebrities getting paid (or not) to endorse products is nothing new. In fact, it's how many of them make a large percentage of their money. But medical experts say consumers should be encouraged to seek out additional information before purchasing any product with purported health benefits.

Teami is not the only detox or weight loss tea touted by the rich and famous. Singers Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears have gushed about MateFit, Kim and the rest of the Kardashian crew have posted about Fit Tea and Flat Tummy tea, and actress Hilary Duff has called Lyfe Tea "a secret weapon."

What are detox teas, exactly?

"If you take a really close look at it, these teas are just a bunch of herbs," said nutritionist Lisa Drayer, who writes about diet and nutrition for CNN. "Some contain caffeine; others may function as a diuretic or laxative. And so any of the weight loss that occurs is due to water weight, and it would quickly be regained once people either stop [drinking] the tea or start hydrating again."

Teami claims that its Skinny Tea contains a potpourri of ingredients including oolong, yerba mate, lime leaf extract, lotus leaf, ginger root and rhubarb root. Teami's Colon Cleanse Tea purportedly contains senna leaf and root, hawthorn berry extract, lotus leaf, lime leaf and extract, psyllium husk seed, phaseolus calcaratus seed, rhubarb root, poria cocos stem bark and valerian root.

Oolong tea is a partially fermented, caffeinated tea that is a cross between black and green tea, Drayer said. Senna acts as a laxative and will cause more bowel movements.

"I don't know the amount they use, but yerba mate is known for its caffeine content, which can ... perhaps speed metabolism in the short term," Drayer said. "In large amounts, it certainly can be an issue for those with high blood pressure or any heart issues."

Garcinia cambogia and valerian root, which are ingredients in many of these weight-loss products, have been associated with drug-induced liver injury and in some cases liver failure, said Dr. Dina Halegoua-De Marzio, a gastroenterologist and director of the Jefferson Fatty Liver Center in Philadelphia.

Researchers acknowledge that the liver-damaging potential of garcinia cambogia is debated and warrants further study. Though the exact concentrations of these substances are not listed on the companies' websites, the US National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that taking garcinia cambogia for 12 weeks or less should be safe for most healthy people. The National Institutes of Health also reports that instances of liver toxicity from valerian root are very rare.

Do detox teas work?

The lack of regulation of the ingredients in these teas is a concern for many doctors.

"The FDA does not regulate these substances," said Halegoua-De Marzio, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. "Really, they can put anything they want in these teas. They can make any claim that they want, and it doesn't have to be supported by any evidence. That makes these very, very dangerous."

Adi Arezzini, Teami's co-founder and CEO, maintains that her company is "definitely transparent."

"All of the ingredients are 100% plant based and 100% natural," she wrote in an email to CNN. "All of the ingredients we use are written on our product labels!"

MateFit, Fit Tea, Flat Tummy and Lyfe Tea did not respond to CNN's requests for comment.

The sellers of these supplements tend to use general terms to describe their actions like "supports a healthy digestive system," Drayer said, contrasting that with drugs that have scientific backing that can assert they "lower blood pressure or cholesterol" and other more specific benefits.

Halegoua-De Marzio, who is a liver specialist, has seen an increase in patients asking about ways to detoxify their bodies, an ability many of these weight loss companies profess to offer.

"And my answer is, it's an organ," she said. "There's no way really to detoxify an organ. The liver does a very good job of it on its own."

Are there any risks to detox teas?

The worst side effect someone may experience is liver failure, according to Halegoua-De Marzio, but that would be extremely rare. More common side effects include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

"In my mind, it's not an effective treatment, so it's not worth any potential risk," she said. Users "really should talk to their physicians about any supplements. Because even beyond them not being effective and my safety concerns, some of these supplements can actually interact with other medications that someone may be on."

Halegoua-De Marzio said valerian root can interact with muscle relaxants, sleep and anxiety medicines, as well as antidepressants. Dried green tea leaves contain vitamin K, which can increase blood clotting, she said, and large amounts of vitamin K may interfere with some blood thinners.

Nevertheless, Halegoua-De Marzio and Drayer agreed that the average healthy person will probably be fine drinking the teas for a short period of time.

"We know by now that there are no quick fixes when it comes to weight loss," Drayer said. "You may get a temporary drop in pounds, which can certainly be motivating on a psychological level, but that's as far as it's going to go. In terms of real weight loss, it takes portion control [and] changing your eating habits."

The key to sustained success, Drayer said, is "just making one or two changes a week until it becomes habit."

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