What are the Benefits of Drinking Yerba Mate?

More and more, yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is showing up on shelves and in refrigerator cases. This rather exotic sounding beverage has its roots in South America and a longstanding tradition. Indigenous tribes, known as the Guarani and Tupi (who lived in what is now Paraguay) cultivated and consumed yerba mate. It also became popular in other South American nations. 


According to one source, “drinking mate is a common social practice in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, and southern Brazil among people of all ages, and is often a communal ritual following customary rules.”


It is now a featured ingredient in many energy promoting beverages because it contains caffeine. Yerba mate, however, is not a bean nor is it a tea. It is rich in flavonoids quercetin, rutin and kaempferol, as well as caffeoyl compounds and theobromine, meaning it provides energy and antioxidants. Additionally, yerba mate contains vitamins A, C, E, several Bs, potassium, zinc, chromiu, manganese, iron and copper. The plant gets its flavor from saponins.


Drinking yerba mate has been shown in studies to have several health benefits, such as weight loss, cholesterol management, blood sugar management, and improvements in mood, mental energy and focus. Authors of a 2010 review, which noted that research and clinical studies on this herbal beverage have increased tremendously in the previous 15 years, asserted that “Research on the effects of Ilex paraguariensis in health and disease has confirmed its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic and lipid-lowering activities.”


Yerba mate is included in energy drinks not so much for its caffeine content but for its theobromine content as well. In one murine study, subjects consuming yerba mate for 15 days exhibited significantly reduced breakdown of energy molecules adenosine triphosphate (55%), adenosine diphosphate (50%) and adenosine monophosphate (40%).


Weight & Cholesterol Control

Scientific explorations of consuming yerba mate have shown that its benefits – glucose management, cholesterol management, weight control – fall neatly under the umbrella of metabolic health. Metabolic health is critical to pay attention to when you are in young adulthood as those numbers tend to creep upwards simply with aging. Engaging in healthy habits and supplementation now can help lower risk of metabolic dysfunction (or metabolic syndrome).


A review of the effects of drinking yerba mate on obesity and related conditions was quite favorable. It noted that previous in vitro studies showed that the beverage suppresses fat cell differentiation, accumulation of triglycerides and reduces inflammation. Other studies have shown that the constituents in yerba mate modulate pathways that regulate adipogenesis (fat cell generation), and insulin signaling responses. Further, some research has shown that yerba mate can modulate expression of genes that alter during obesity, restoring them to healthier levels.

 

One study looked at the effects of drinking yerba mate on hypertension, dyslipidemia, and risks of heart issues in 95 postmenopausal women, who are at a higher risk of developing these conditions. Participants who consumed more than 1 L per day of mate had “significantly fewer diagnoses of coronary disease, dyslipidemia, and hypertension.” 

 

In another study, researchers studied 119 overweight women aged 25-50, who were divided into three groups: one consumed a diet including yerba mate; another consumed a diet including water; the third ate what food they wanted but also drank yerba mate. After 12 weeks, researchers measured total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels before and after 12 weeks of following the protocol. They found that LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels were reduced in both yerba mate groups. 


Another study of 102 participants comprising those with normal cholesterol levels, those with slightly elevated levels (dyslipidemic) and those with high cholesterol ( (hypercholesterolemic) and taking statins evaluated  the lipid profile impact of supplementation with yerba mate (approximately 1 liter, as three doses of 330 ml daily) for 40 days. After 20 days of drinking yerba mate, a blood fat called apolipoprotein B was reduced by 6.0% and the good cholesterol – HDL – increased by 4.4%. In those who were hypercholesterolemic, yerba mate consumption promoted additional 10.0 and 13.1% reductions in low-density lipoprotein after 20 and 40 days, respectively; they also saw an increase of HDL by 6.2% after 40 days.


Yerba mate blended with another herb, damiana, in capsules was studied in 47 overweight individuals. The researchers looked at how the compound affected gastric emptying versus placebo, as well as loss of body weight after 34 days. The researchers concluded that the combination reduced time to perceived fullness (delayed gastric emptying), which induced statistically significant weight loss. 


Researchers studied the effects of yerba mate on weight loss, blood sugar levels and related metabolic factors in subjects on a high-fat diet. They observed that yerba mate was able to reduce the differentiation of pre-adipocytes and the accumulation of lipids in adipocytes, actions that contribute to weight and fat loss. “Our data from in vivo studies revealed that Yerba Mate [consumption] affects food intake, resulting in higher energy expenditure, likely as a result of higher basal metabolism,” they concluded. 


Another murine study looked at how yerba mate helped manage blood sugar in subjects with metabolic syndrome, and found that high levels of yerba mate consumption at both 50 and 100 mg per kg for 3 weeks significantly reduced foot intake, body weight and also ameliorated blood and liver fats. The researchers discovered that yerba mate positively influenced appetite and satiety markers (such as glucagon-like peptide 1 and leptin).


A study with 14 adults who took either 100 mg of yerba mate or placebo capsules were subject to exercise tests in an aim to discern how the botanical affected thermogenesis (fat burning). The researchers summarized that yerba mate consumption can increase exercise effectiveness for weight as well as enhance sports performance.


Inflammation has a role in weight gain and other metabolic parameters, and yerba mate consumption may be helpful in modulating it; obesity is associated with excessive cytokine production, creating chronic low-grade inflammation.  


Researchers have shown that yerba mate has strong anti-inflammatory effects in adipose tissue -- downregulating the expression of several key pro-inflammatory markers.


Conclusion

It is a rare beverage that can support several factors that are interrelated. Yerba mate can help you manage your weight, your cholesterol, your blood sugar and your energy. Yerba mate is plentiful on the market – you can buy bulk loose tea, teabags, or a variety of ready-to-drink beverages, including sparkling. A fun resource for all things yerba mate is yerbamateculture.com. 

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