Drinking a cup of coffee can be helpful in fighting obesity and diabetes as it stimulates body’s fat-fighting defences, says a new study. The study, published in Scientific Reports journal, found components which could have a direct effect on “brown fat” functions, an important part of the human body which plays a key role in how quickly we can burn calories as energy. A 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 (opposed to white fat, which is a result of storing excess calories).
People with a lower body mass index (BMI) therefore have a higher amount of brown fat. “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,” said study’s co-director Michael Symonds, Professor at the University of Nottingham. “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,” he noted.
For the study, the researches started with a series of stem cell studies to see if caffeine would stimulate brown fat. After finding the right dose, they then moved on to humans to see if the results were similar. They used a thermal imaging technique 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,” he said.
“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,” Symonds added.