Yerba Mate: from folklore to science

Yerba Mate has high anti-oxidant potential, lowering the ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein cholesterol fraction.

Staying on top of the new developments within the supplement industry is certainly challenging. The biggest area in all of food supplement science is, of course, weight or fat loss.

Some well known stimulants have proven effective – yet some have their own liabilities or limitations. Ephedra is one of those ingredients. While ephedra has a proven track record of effectiveness, it is saddled with a cloud of doubt about its safety. Some users of it experience rapid heart rate, jitters and an over all “down feeling” coming off of it.

Insurance carriers now cringe at the thought of having to carry liability insurance on supplements containing this ingredient. Professional sporting associations have mounted a growing push for a ban of supplements that contain it, and President Bush has just asked for a complete review on ephedra.

Meanwhile the CANTOX study showed ephedrine was safe when taken in controlled doses. Beyond certain perspectives on this ingredient, safety (if used properly), is probably not a key concern of athletes. In my mind, given the amount of research and scientific data on ephedrine – my concerns are about safety AND optimal performance.

Yes, my friends, to achieve optimal performance, you have to be firing on all cylinders – you have to be driven like a finely tuned racecar engine – loaded with power, energy and the right fuel to succeed. Well, if you really delve into the mechanism of action of ephedrine and how it accomplishes its target goal of burning fat – you may be really surprised at what you find.

Ephedrine or Ephedra – based products (like products containing ma huang) cause the body to produce an increased number of catecholamines (the primary hormones responsible for lipolysis, fat burning). According to recent studies and as documented and published in June 2000 in the International Journal of Obesity, “. . . .catecholamines increase oxygen consumption in muscle.” BUT – this study indicates that while ephedra-based products augment fat burning, they can also lead to premature exhaustion and fatigue by causing “increased oxygen consumption in the muscle.”

Well, given all those facts, within the industry the hunt is on for an alternative to ephedrine that will support fat burning. Something that supports energy, without the negative catecholamine effects.

I have been conducting and comparing clinical data studies and have been studying scientific research. I have found one of the most interesting ingredients is Ilex Paraquariensis or Yerba Mate’ (pronounced Herba Mot-A).

Yerba Mate’ is an evergreen member of the holly family growing wild in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and abundantly in Paraguay. For 100’s of years, the ground-up leaves of this tree have been used in traditional medicine as an aromatic tea. It is a diuretic, tonic and stimulant.

In Europe, Yerba Mate’ is used for weight-loss.

Dr. James Balch M.D. (Prescription for Nutritional Healing – Avery Publishing) recommends Yerba Mate’ for obesity, stress, constipation, fluid retention and fatigue.

Newer research on Yerba Mate’ has established that the active chemical constituents of the dried leaves include phytochemicals (2,5-xylenol, 4-oxoalauric acid, 5-o-caffeoylquinic acid, Alpha-amyrin), ash, beta-amyrin, butyric acid, caffeine, caffetannin, chlorogenic acid and chlorophyll. It also includes choline, EO, fiber, inositol, isobutyric acid, isocapronic acid, isovaleric-acid, neo-chlorogenic acid, nicotinic-acid, nitrogen, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, resin, resinic acid, riboflavin, rutin, stearic-acid, tannin, theobromine, theophylline, trigonelline, ursolic acid and vanillin. Wow! Quite a list of ingredients!

Yerba Mate’ has 0.3 to 2.0% caffeine and some 15 amino acids and minerals. Another interesting constituent is mateine. Mateine posseses some of the characteristics of caffeine without addictive side effects.

Consider some of the research on Yerba Mate’:

1: Researchers from the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society have concluded that Yerba Mate’ contains practically all of the necessary vitamins to sustain life! This fact addresses the abundant folklore of the plant, its use as a health tonic and its recognition in Europe and throughout South America as the green gold of the Indies.

2: Another group of scientists in Switzerland conducted trials on healthy human subjects and found support for the leaf in weight loss. The researchers found a decrease in respiratory quotient, indicating a rise in the proportion of fat oxidation (fat burning).

3: A study by Martinet, Hostettmann and Schutz [Phytomedicine 6 (4): 231-238, 1999], testing a variety of herbal preparations for promoting weight loss in non-obese women, concluded that only the Yerba Mate’ showed promise.

4: Andersen and Fogh [J Human Nutr Diet 14 (3): 243-250, 2001] examined Yerba Mate’ in the overweight, in the context of providing support or enhancement of weight loss. They concluded that Yerba Mate’ appeared promising in supporting weight loss.

5: Others have examined Yerba Mate’ and its effects on LDL (low density lipoprotein) and as an antioxidant — with promising outcomes [Gugliucci and Stahl et al. Biochem Mol Biol Int 35 (1):47-56, 1999].

6: Numico Research, in conjunction with applications for health benefits and for accelerated fat-loss, has been conducting clinical trials with Yerba Mate’.

The next great fat loss supplement on the market may just be an ingredient with a long history of folklore with new science giving it real support! Perhaps, soon enough, the dilemma of whether to use or not use ephedra will disappear forever.