Good news, coffee lovers. Coffee could help you lose weight. Yes, you read that right. A new study found that some component in coffee, perhaps caffeine, stimulates brown fat in the body, and that could be important in the fight against obesity.
The human body contains two types of fat, brown fat and white fat. White fat is used to store calories. Too much white fat is linked to heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Brown fat, once thought to be found only in babies and hibernating mammals, generates body heat by burning calories. People with higher metabolisms and lower body mass index generally have greater amounts of brown fat than people who are overweight or obese.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham looked at caffeine’s effect on brown fat. They began with a series of studies using stem cells to find out if caffeine would stimulate brown fat. When they determined the right dose of caffeine, they began testing the theory on humans to see if they could produce similar results.
Brown fat works differently from other fat in your body. It produces heat by burning sugar and fat. Increasing its activity improves blood sugar control and lipid levels as well.
They used thermal imaging to locate brown fat in the body and measure its ability to produce heat. Knowing that brown fat is primarily in the neck area, they were able to image a person right after he or she had consumed caffeine.
The results were convincing, but whether caffeine caused the stimulation of brown fat or something else in coffee was responsible is not yet known. The researchers are now studying caffeine supplements to see if they create a similar effect.
“Brown fat works in a different way to other fat in your body and produces heat by burning sugar and fat, often in response to cold. Increasing its activity improves blood sugar control as well as improving blood lipid levels and the extra calories burnt help with weight loss,” explained researcher, Michael Symonds, in a statement. “However, until now, no one has found an acceptable way to stimulate its activity in humans.”
Once the researchers are able to pinpoint what it is in coffee that causes the brown fat effect, there is the potential it could be used in weight management or as a way to prevent or treat diabetes.
It’s too soon to know for sure if brown fat’s ability to burn calories can be used for weight loss, but it can't hurt to enjoy a couple of cups of java every day. If you’re in a hurry to start burning up that white fat, however, your best bet is regular physical activity.
The study is published in Scientific Reports.