Green Tea Extract has been Linked to Liver Damage and Even Death

By now, we’re well aware of the potential dangers when it comes to weight loss – in everything from the controversial Hollywood fads and crash diets, to surgery.

But green tea extract could be just as serious of an issue for some people, despite its fat-burning rep (and it may not even help your weight loss cause at all).

An investigation by CBC’s Marketplace has found that mainstream weight-loss supplements containing green tea extract could be dangerous to your liver. Apparently, the green tea supplements – which are available over the counter at many retailers – have been blamed for more than 60 documented cases worldwide of liver failure.

At least two deaths have been partially linked to the supplements.

All of the supplements are licensed by Health Canada as “safe and effective” (unlike prescription drugs, supplements don’t have to undergo clinical trials), but – judging from the report – the risks are pretty real. When we read the words “natural” and “green tea” extract that appear on the packaging (something widely believed to be harmless), it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily safe.

Yet, people can’t get enough of them, especially come bathing suit season. As the CBC reports, Canada’s market for weight management and well-being products in Canada is an estimated $304 million US a year. And a good handful of these natural weight-loss supplements contain green tea extract.


When it comes to weight-loss, the antioxidant-rich green tea is widely known for its fat-burning powers.

The thing is, in its extract form, it could be too much of a good thing as far as the liver is concerned (kind of like booze).

The antioxidant catechins is found in much higher levels in concentrated green tea extracts than in the brewed version of the beverage. This is where the line between its health benefits and its potential (note: potential) dangers is drawn, as the green tea extract can be dangerous for some people at high doses.

While it doesn’t affect everyone’s livers (the cases are admittedly rare), it definitely seems worth noting the risk – especially for longtime users of the supplements.

As for Health Canada, it does cover its bases with a warning on the packaging, which states: “Consult a health-care practitioner prior to use if you have a liver disorder or develop symptoms of liver trouble (such as abdominal pain, dark urine or jaundice).” Furthermore, according to the Marketplace findings, Health Canada is in the midst of a safety review of liver injury associated with all green tea extracts, which is expected for March.

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Not to mention, aside from the impact on your liver, solid evidence that proves these are even effective isn’t exactly plentiful. To assess the research used by Health Canada that correlates green tea extract with weight loss, Marketplace turned to McMaster University epidemiologist Jason Busse.

His view? The research couldn’t determine whether the green tea actually contributed to weight loss at all.

So, you may be better to save the green tea for sipping the old-fashioned way. As for dropping those lbs, you may want to also take the old-fashioned route of eating healthy and exercising regularly instead.

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