Yerba maté linked to improved mitochondrial function: Mouse data

By Stephen Daniells contact

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© Getty Images / Aleksandr_Vorobev
© Getty Images / Aleksandr_Vorobev
The potential health benefits of consuming yerba maté may be linked to its ability to boost the formation of new mitochondria – the powerhouses of our cells – and increase energy expenditure, for lab mice at least.

Data published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research​ indicated that mice fed a high-fat diet and given yerba maté had significantly greater energy expenditure than animals only consuming high-fat diet.

“We can conclude that [yerba maté] stimulates mitochondriogenesis and UCP expression*, leading to an increase in spare respiratory capacity and energy dissipation in the main oxidative tissues, brown adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle,”​ wrote researchers from the Universidade São Francisco (Brazil), the University of the Basque Country (Spain), and Biodonostia Health Research Institute (Spain).

“In addition, [yerba maté] treatment protects liver mainly by reducing the synthesis and uptake of free fatty acids. These effects may help to better understand the potential use of [yerba maté] for the obesity treatment.”

* Activation of UCPs – or uncoupling proteins – is believed to play a key role in thermogenesis, and involves the production of heat during adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis.


Yerba maté (Illex paraguariensis​) is a tea-like drink traditionally consumed in South American countries by pouring boiling water onto a high concentration of leaves. The active ingredients of the beverage include polyphenols and caffeoyl derivatives, such as caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, and different forms of dicaffeoylquinic acid. Yerba maté also contains phytosterols and saponins.

The beverage has been garnering increased attention outside of South America thanks to the global appeal of soccer stars​ from Latin America like Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez of Barcelona.

 The new study looked at the potential benefits for mitochondrial biogenesis and thermogenesis.

Study details

Mitochondria © Getty Images wir0man
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells. Image: © Getty Images / wir0man

The Brazilian and Spanish researchers performed a cell-based study and found that yerba maté affected gene expression related to mitochondrial biogenesis and thermogenesis. This was followed by a study in lab mice fed a high-fat diet with or without yerba maté.

The mouse data showed that yerba maté partially prevented diet‐induced obesity. This was achieved by increasing energy expenditure and enhancing mitochondrial biogenesis.

“[Yerba mate]stimulates mitochondriogenesis and Ucp expression, leading to an increase in the spare respiratory capacity and energy dissipation. These effects may help to better understand the potential use of [yerba mate]for obesity treatment,” ​they concluded.

Source: Molecular Nutrition and Food Research
2018, Volume 62, 1800142, doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201800142
“Yerba Mate Stimulates Mitochondrial Biogenesis and Thermogenesis in High‐Fat‐Diet‐Induced Obese Mice”
Authors: T. Wood dos Santos  et al.

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