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Yerba mate

Antioxidant-Rich Yerba Mate Controls Weight and Prevents Cancer

Friday, February 15, 2008 by: Anita Khalek
Tags: yerba mate, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Yerba Mate tea or Mate, widely used in southern Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay), is an infusion made from the leaves of the tree Ilex paraguaruesis, a species of holly. It is rapidly gaining momentum in popularity as a healthy herbal beverage around the world. The infusion is traditionally prepared by steeping the dry leaves of the mate in hot water (not boiling), and served in a hollow dried gourd called a mate in Spanish with a metal straw or a bombilla. This process is repeated over and over, and the gourd is passed around between friends and family.

In recent months, scientists from the University of Illinois have published new findings about Yerba Mate that have shown it to help in obesity management and protect DNA from oxidation. It has a very high antioxidant capacity, higher even than green tea, and is being considered as a dietary supplement. New findings also suggest that Mate helps prevent some types of cancer. Mate extract has been shown to be a very potent inhibitor of oxidative stress.

Obesity and weight management

A growing concern for many people across the world, obesity is considered by many as an epidemic in the U.S. and research is focused on finding ways to curb the growth. Supportive evidence provided recently by scientists proves that Mate tea has a positive effect on controlling weight and boosting weight loss. Results of a study of obese men and women consuming Mate tea have shown an increase in fat oxidation and an increase in the feeling of satiety after consumption. The effects on weight loss could be attributed to the saponin concentration, which interferes with cholesterol metabolism and delays intestinal absorption of dietary fats. Saponins are highly water-soluble bitter-tasting compounds found in many plants, and are responsible for the distinct mate tea flavor.

Cancer prevention

Mate is shown to possess chemo-preventative properties with the highest cytotoxicity against liver cancer cells, especially when compared to green tea. Anti-topoisomerase II activity has shown a 65% inhibition compared to 15% for green tea. Topoisomerase (TOPO I and II ) are catalytic enzymes that control the changes in DNA structure by boosting the breaking and joining of DNA strands during cell replication. Cancer cells show higher concentrations of Topo II than normal cells due to the high rate of cell division. Mate contains a diverse list of flavonoids which contribute to its anticancer potential. In the study, Mate was shown to be a very potent Topo II inhibitor with significant cancer cell growth inhibition capacity, even at low concentrations.

Considering Mate tea as an addition to your beverage list

Mate tea differs from other teas such as green or black tea mainly in flavor. The notable bitterness from the saponins and smoky aroma from the roasting process make it an acquired taste, however, it is diverse in biological compounds that are not available in other teas, such as xanthines and theobromine which make it an energizing drink. The saponins give it anti-inflammatory and hypocholesterolemic properties. Mate tea is also used as a digestive aid, increasing the rate of bile flow. Due to its high concentrations of known active compounds, it is being considered as an ideal product for extraction of these compounds for use as supplements or in other foods.

On a personal note, I have enjoyed Mate since childhood. It was such a treat to drink it with cousins as we passed the gourd around. Traditionally, Mate is steeped in hot water. Adding a small piece of lemon zest and a pinch of ground cardamom will punch up the flavor of the infusion. For a fun change, substituting hot sweetened milk for the hot water makes it a wonderful treat in the morning that adults and children alike will enjoy.


Adapted from the works of Heck and de Mejia of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

About the author

Anita Khalek resides in North Carolina. As a total wellness advocate, she is a passionate believer in the healing power of Nature and is inspired by local, organic and fresh foods to nurture her family and friends. Anita is currently working on several projects including a cookbook. Visit her blog for fresh, healthy recipes at myFreshLevant.com.
Questions and suggestions can be directed to [email protected]freshlevant.com

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