We already knew that coffee can cheer you up when you’re feeling down and perk you up when you’re feeling tired, but now researchers in Nottingham have discovered it could help you lose weight, as well.
The new research concentrated on the effect of caffeine on ‘brown fat’. Unlike plain old regular white fat, which is the substance that stores calories and is responsible for us gaining weight, brown fat burns energy and is very efficient at producing heat. Scientists believe that drinking a cup of caffeinated coffee could kick start brown fat and encourage it to burn more energy.
This is more ground breaking than it might look at first glance, as up until brown fat has been a bit of a mystery and no-one had previously found a safe and easy way of kicking it into action.
Prior to the study, researchers had already successfully trialled this theory on human cells under laboratory conditions before deciding to carry out the study with nine participants. The volunteers were asked not to exercise, or drink any caffeine or alcohol in the nine hours prior to being tested. They were then offered either a cup of instant coffee, or water for comparison purposes.
Brown fat is largely found in babies, but adults also retain small amounts, mostly in the region of the neck. After their drink, volunteers had thermal scans which showed that the relevant areas of their neck got hotter, showing the brown fat was working to burn calories. Scientists also found that activating the brown fat also helped the body to control sugar and fat in the blood, potentially improving the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The Nottingham team are now conducting further research to confirm that caffeine is indeed the ‘magic’ ingredient, and to determine how much we should be consuming for the effects to take place.
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