Consumption of Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is associated with higher bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.

Consuming Yerba Mate

(Ilex paraguariensis) is associated with higher
bone mineral density in postmenopausal women

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Consumption of Yerba Mate tea  (  Ilex paraguariensis  ) is higher in Argentina and other South American countries than that of coffee or tea (  Camellia sinensis  ). The effect of Yerba Mate on bone health has not been previously studied.  Postmenopausal women who drank at least 1 liter of Yerba Mate tea daily for 4 or more years (n = 146) were identified from an osteoporosis prevention and treatment program   and compared on age and time since menopause with the same the 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  . People drinking Yerba Mate had a 9.7% higher BMD at the lumbar spine (0.952 g/cm  2  vs. 0.858 g/cm  2  :  p   < 0.0001) and a 6.2% higher BMD at the femoral neck (0.817 g/cm  2  compared to 0.776 g/cm  2  ;  p   = 0.0002). In multiple regression analysis, drinking yerba mate was the only factor, apart from  body mass index  , that showed a positive correlation with BMD at both the lumbar spine (  p  < 0.0001) and the femoral neck (  p  = 0.0028). The results indicate the protective effect of chronic consumption of Yerba Mate on bones.     

Overview of the most important events

► Yerba Mate tea is widely consumed in South America, but its effects on bones are unknown. ► We compared the bone mineral density of postmenopausal women who drink Yerba Mate tea and who do not have this habit. ► Bone mineral density of the spine and hip was higher in Yerba Mate drinkers than in non-drinkers. ► In multivariate analysis, Yerba Mate intake and body mass index were positively associated with bone mineral density.


Osteoporosis is an important health problem [1]. Approximately 9 million osteoporotic fractures occur annually worldwide [2]. The incidence of osteoporosis and the incidence of osteoporotic fractures in Latin America are lower than in Northern Europe and the United States [1], [2] and similar to those in Southern Europe [3], [4], [5], but are increasing. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, a significant increase in osteoporotic fractures is expected in Asia and Latin America [1]. Latin American guidelines for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis were recently updated [6].

Although many risk factors for osteoporosis have been identified, preventive efforts obviously focus on those risk factors that can be modified [7]. These include lifestyle factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, low calcium and vitamin D intake, smoking or excessive alcohol consumption.

Caffeine consumption may have a negative impact on bone mineral density and fracture risk [8], [9], [10]. However, popular drinks containing xanthines, such as coffee and tea, also contain a number of other biologically active compounds that can offset the effects of xanthines themselves. Thus, although high coffee consumption is associated with lower BMD [11], [12], accelerated bone loss [13], and increased risk of fractures [14], consumption of both black and green tea (  Camellia sinensis  ) has been reported a protective effect on BMD [15], [16], [17], [18], [19] and a reduction in the risk of fractures [20], [21], although the effect appears to be small [22]. The evidence for green tea was recently reviewed [23].

Yerba Mate is a drink containing xanthine that is very popular in South America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay [24]. It is prepared from dried, ground leaves and twigs of the  Ilex paraguariensis  St. tree. Hilaire. Although it can be prepared like any other infusion (i.e. soak the dried leaves in hot water, filter and serve the tea in a cup), the usual way to drink Yerba Mate tea is with  mate cebado  , which is prepared as follows. A metal straw (  bombilla  ) is placed in a dried gourd (  mate  ) containing leaves, into which hot water (70 to 80°C) is repeatedly poured. Yerba Mate prepared in this way has an average caffeine concentration of 330 mg/L and has been found to be the main factor influencing caffeine consumption in adult Argentines [25]. Despite this, we are not aware of any published work that specifically examines the effects of Yerba Mate consumption on bone health.

We hypothesized that high consumption of Yerba Mate may have a negative impact on bone mineral density due to its caffeine content. To test our hypothesis, we compared the mineral density of the lumbar spine and femoral neck of women who drank Yerba Mate tea with women who did not.

Fragments of sections


This is a cross-sectional, observational study. Data on sedentary postmenopausal women were obtained from a large Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis and Treatment Clinic, which is a branch of the Provincial Chronic Disease Program. The study was planned and conducted in full compliance with the applicable version of the Declaration of Helsinki. The protocol was reviewed and approved by the Research and Education Commission of the Obra Social de Empleados Públicos of Mendoza,


There were no significant differences in age, time since menopause, height, weight, and calcium intake between Yerba Mate drinkers and non-drinkers. Although in a standard nutritional examination we did not find significant differences in dietary habits (other than drinking Yerba Mate), average energy intake or proportions of the diet composition of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins between the groups, BMI was 1.1 kg/m2  higher  in the Yerba Mate group drinkers than in the control group. No significant difference was found for calcium

Main results

Consumption of Yerba Mate in the form of  mate cebado  was associated with higher BMD in both the lumbar spine and femoral neck. The linear relationship between BMD at the lumbar spine and BMD at the femoral neck was not significantly different in Yerba Mate drinkers than in the control group, suggesting a similar effect at both sites. In multiple regression analysis, only BMI and Yerba Mate consumption had a significant positive effect on BMD. These results indicate that our original hypothesis that Yerba


Chronic consumption of Yerba Mate as  mate cebado  was associated with higher BMD in the lumbar spine and femoral neck, suggesting a protective effect of this tea on the bone mass of postmenopausal women.

Disclosure Statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest in connection with this work. In particular, none of them has any past or present connection with the Yerba Mate industry.

The role of the financing source

The authors declare that the funding source (Obra Social de Empleados Públicos, Mendoza, Argentina) had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis or interpretation, neither in the writing of the report nor in the decision to submit it for publication.


The skilled assistance of technicians María Angélica Andrada and Patricia F. Ortiz was gratefully acknowledged. William T. Miller, BS, MTh, kindly corrected the English text of an earlier version of this article. Bone density measurements and biochemical assays were paid in part by Obra Social de Empleados Públicos, Mendoza, Argentina.

The content on the website comes from ScienceDirect and has been translated into Polish.

Link to source –