Drinking coffee may fight off obesity and diabetes
For most of us, body fat has a bad reputation. But the fat has more functions than we thought of. There are mainly two types of fat: white fat and brown fat. White fat stores excess calories and brown fat produce body heat (energy) by burning calories. Lean people with a lower body mass index (BMI) tend to have more brown fat whereas obese people tend to have more of the white fat. Increasing the activity of brown fat improves blood sugar control and blood lipid levels and helps to burn extra calories with weight loss.
Now, according to the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, drinking coffee may stimulate 'brown fat', the body's own fat-fighting defenses that would help to fight off obesity and diabetes.
The pioneering study by Michael E. Symonds, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom, and colleagues is one of the first to be carried out in humans to find components which could have a direct effect on 'brown fat' functions. This study examined the effect of caffeine on thermogenesis of BAT (brown adipose tissue) or brown fat in vitro and in vivo.
"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," said Professor Symonds.
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"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."
The team started with a series of stem cell studies to see if caffeine would stimulate brown fat. Once they had found the right dose, they then moved on to humans to see if the results were similar.
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.
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"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 glucose regulation programme to help prevent diabetes."
To read the complete study log on to https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-45540-1