Drinking coffee stimulates ‘brown fat’, the body’s fat-fighting defences, so your morning cup of coffee may help you lose weight after all
In a pioneering study from the University of Nottingham, scientists discovered that drinking a cup of coffee could be a key to fending off obesity and diabetes.
What is brown fat and why does it matter?
Brown adipose tissue (BAT), also known as brown fat, is one of two types of fat found in humans and other mammals.
Its main function is to generate body heat by burning calories (as opposed to white fat, which is a result of storing excess calories).
Initially only attributed to babies and hibernating mammals, it was discovered in recent years that adults can have brown fat too.
People with a lower body mass index (BMI) have a higher amount of brown fat.
How does brown fat work?
“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. However, until now, no one has found an acceptable way to stimulate its activity in humans,” says Professor Michael Symonds, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, who co-directed the study.
A cup of coffee affects brown fat functions
Prof Symonds says that this is the first study in humans to show that something like a cup of coffee can have a direct effect on our brown fat functions.
“The potential implications of our results are pretty big, as obesity is a major health concern for society and we also have a growing diabetes epidemic and brown fat could potentially be part of the solution in tackling them.”
A new thermal imaging technique used to trace brown fat
The team used a thermal imaging technique, which they’d previously pioneered, to trace the body’s brown fat reserves. The non-invasive technique helps the team to locate brown fat and assess its capacity to produce heat.
“From our previous work, we knew that brown fat is mainly located in the neck region, so we were able to image someone straight after they had a drink to see if the brown fat got hotter,” said Professor Symonds.
“The results were positive and we now need to ascertain that caffeine as one of the ingredients in the coffee is acting as the stimulus or if there’s another component helping with the activation of brown fat. We are currently looking at caffeine supplements to test whether the effect is similar.
Once we have confirmed which component is responsible for this, it could potentially be used as part of a weight management regime or as part of a glucose regulation programme to help prevent diabetes.”
Until then, we say its reason enough to enjoy a cuppa or two.
Source: University of Nottingham via www.sciencedaily.com
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