Updated: Apr 14
Argentinians don’t just drink Yerba Mate for its earthy, strong taste. They have long known there are a lot of health benefits, and over the years, many research studies have been done that show promising results. Yerba mate is a healthy, non-acidic, caffeine alternative to coffee which is also packed with antioxidants and nutrients.
Here is a handy guide to all of the known research and associated health benefits of Yerba Mate.
Colon Cancer and Inflammation
Human colon cancer cells die when exposed to the amount of bioactive ingredients in just one cup of Yerba Mate tea.
For an in vitro study, published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, researchers isolated, purified, and then treated human colon cancer cells with caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) derivatives from mate tea. As the scientists increased the CQA concentration, cancer cells died as a result of apoptosis. The tea has been consumed for years in South America for medicinal purposes.
“The caffeine derivatives in mate tea not only induced death in human colon cancer cells, they also reduced important markers of inflammation,” says Elvira de Mejia, associate professor of food chemistry and food toxicology at the University of Illinois.
In 2001, the first study to evaluate the anti-obesity role of yerba mate was conducted. In this clinical study, the authors demonstrated that an herbal preparation containing yerba mate and damiana significantly delayed gastric emptying, reducing the time to perceived gastric fullness, and induced significant weight loss over 45 days in overweight patients
Anti-obesity effects of Yerba Mate: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. ClinicalTrials.gov: (NCT01778257)
During 12 weeks of Yerba Mate supplementation, decreases in body fat mass (P = 0.036) and percent body fat (P = 0.030) compared to the placebo group were statistically significant. WHR was significantly decreased (P = 0.004) in the Yerba Mate group compared to the placebo group. No clinically significant changes in any safety parameters were observed.
Yerba Mate supplementation decreased body fat mass, percent body fat and WHR. Yerba Mate was a potent anti-obesity reagent that did not produce significant adverse effects. These results suggested that Yerba Mate supplementation may be effective for treating obese individuals.
Other Body Weight Studies
This study was performed to investigate the effects of Maté extract on body weight and fat content in obese women [25.0 kg/m2 ≤body mass index (BMI) <30 kg/m2] aged 20-65 years after 6 weeks of its administration.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted in 33 women. Participants took the supplement, either 2 Maté tablets or 2 placebo tablets, twice daily before meals for 6 weeks. Body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and various safety parameters were monitored. Body composition was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry at baseline and after 6 weeks.
Average body weight and BMI did not show any significant changes; however, trunk fat percentage significantly decreased in the Maté group compared to that in the placebo group (-1.24% vs -0.16%, P=0.03). In the Maté group, the body fat percentages showed a tendency to decrease. All safety parameters were within normal ranges in both groups. Two participants, one from each group, reported nausea during the study.
Maté extract significantly reduced trunk fat in obese women after 6 weeks, which indicates that it could improve abdominal fat mass. Furthermore, the supplement is safe and well tolerated.
Yerba Mate consumption is associated with higher bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.
From a program for osteoporosis prevention and treatment, postmenopausal women who drank at least 1 L of Yerba Mate tea daily during 4 or more years (n=146) were identified, and matched by age and time since menopause with an equal number of women who did not drink Yerba Mate tea.
Their bone mineral density (BMD) was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) at the lumbar spine and femoral neck. Yerba Mate drinkers had a 9.7% higher lumbar spine BMD (0.952 g/cm(2) versus 0.858 g/cm(2): p<0.0001) and a 6.2% higher femoral neck BMD (0.817 g/cm(2) versus 0.776 g/cm(2); p=0.0002).
In multiple regression analysis, Yerba Mate drinking was the only factor, other than body mass index, which showed a positive correlation with BMD at both the lumbar spine (p<0.0001) and the femoral neck (p=0.0028). Results suggest a protective effect of chronic Yerba Mate consumption on bone.
Bone. 2012 Jan;50(1):9-13. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2011.08.029. Epub 2011 Sep 3.
Diabetes and Obesity
The aim of the this study was to evaluate the effects of Yerba Mate extract on weight loss, obesity-related biochemical parameters, and diabetes in high-fat diet-fed mice, as natural products can show different characteristics and pharmacological differences depending on their growing district.
To determine if Yerba Mate has an anti-obesity effect in HFD-fed mice, we measured fat weight, TG, T-CHO, HDL-CHO, LDL-CHO, and leptin concentration after 4 weeks during Yerba Mate administration. The Yerba Mate-treated group had significantly lower serum TG and total cholesterol concentrations than did the HFD group. The leptin levels of the Yerba Mate-treated groups were also markedly reduced compared to those of the HFD group.
Yerba Mate has been reported to have various biological activities, which are mainly attributed to its high polyphenol content . Chlorogenic acid, the main polyphenol in Yerba Mate, is thought to modulate the activity of glucose-6-phosphatase, which is involved in glucose metabolism , and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing the oxidation of LDL and cholesterol . In this sense, our results are in accordance with previous studies that have shown that Ilex paraguariensis treatment improves glucose tolerance in obese animals [14,29].
In addition to chlorogenic acid, methylxanthines are also thought to account for some of the pharmacological effects of Yerba Mate . Saponins, another important class of compounds found in Yerba Mate, have been reported to interfere with cholesterol metabolism . Thus, the effects of Yerba Mate on cholesterol levels could be partially attributed to its saponin content. The data presented in this study suggest that Yerba Mate extract may act synergistically to suppress body weight gain and visceral fat accumulation and to decrease the serum levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose. Adipose tissue is an endocrine organ, which has a fundamental role in metabolism and homeostasis regulation.
The production and secretion of an excess or insufficient amount of adipokines greatly influence insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, inflammation, and atherosclerosis and may provide a molecular link between increased adiposity and the development of diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndromes, and cardiovascular diseases . In the present study, the level of leptin in serum was directly affected by a high-fat diet. Additionally, treatment with Yerba Mate extract recovered the concentration of leptin.
In conclusion, this study found that Yerba Mate extract has potent anti-obesity activity in vivo. Additionally, we observed that Yerba Mate treatment has a modulatory effect on glucose levels related to obesity.
Cardiovascular Problems in Menopausal Women
Protective effect of Yerba Mate intake on the cardiovascular system: a post hoc analysis study in postmenopausal women.
In conclusion, we described a potential beneficial effect of yerba mate use on the cardiovascular system, as indicated by fewer diagnoses of dyslipidemia, hypertension, and coronary disease in postmenopausal women. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2018; 51(6): e7253.
Consumption of yerba mate improves serum lipid parameters in healthy dyslipidemic subjects and provides an additional LDL-cholesterol reduction in individuals on statin therapy.
The objective of this study was to verify the effect of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) consumption on lipid and lipoprotein levels in humans. One hundred and two individuals participated of this single-blind controlled trial. Normolipidemic (n = 15), dyslipidemic (n = 57), and hypercholesterolemic subjects on long-term statin therapy (n = 30) ingested 330 mL, 3 times/day, of green or roasted yerba mate infusions for 40 days. In normolipidemic subjects, yerba mate consumption reduced LDL-cholesterol by 8.7% (p < 0.05).
Compared with the baseline period, yerba mate intake by dyslipidemic individuals for 20 and 40 days lowered LDL-cholesterol by 8.1 and 8.6% (p < 0.001) and non-HDL cholesterol by 5.4 and 6.5% (p < 0.01). After 20 days of yerba mate intake, apolipoprotein B was reduced by 6.0% (p < 0.05) and HDL-cholesterol was increased by 4.4% (p < 0.01). In all participants triglyceride levels remained unchanged.
The consumption of yerba mate by hypercholesterolemic individuals on statin therapy promoted additional 10.0 and 13.1% reductions in LDL-C after 20 and 40 days, respectively (p < 0.001) and increased HDL-cholesterol by 6.2% after 40 days (p < 0.05). It was thus concluded that intake of yerba mate infusion improved the lipid parameters in normolipidemic and dyslipidemic subjects and provided an additional LDL-cholesterol reduction in hypercholesterolemic subjects on statin treatment, which may reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases.
J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Sep 23;57(18):8316-24. doi: 10.1021/jf901660g.
Other Yerba Mate Health Benefit Research Studies
There are more research studies being done all the time. Here are a few more from the National Institutes of Health that are worthy of reading and knowing about.