Upgrade: Drinking this beloved beverage may help you lose weight
Here’s some buzzworthy news.
A study released this week in the journal Scientific Reports finds that drinking a cup of coffee may help humans tackle obesity and diabetes. That’s because coffee may stimulate “brown fat,” which helps generate body heat by burning calories. (Brown fat is one of two types of fat found in humans; the other is white fat, which helps store excess calories.)
“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,” Michael Symonds, a professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, who co-directed the study, said in a statement. “However, until now, no one has found an acceptable way to stimulate its activity in humans.”
Symonds notes 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.”
To be sure, coffee isn’t the only thing that can stimulate brown fat production: Exercise and deep sleep can too, as Dr. David Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and Viterbi School of Engineering, explained when discussing the study on Good Morning America.
And it’s clearly not a panacea for our obesity problems: Most Americans say they already drink coffee, and more than one-third are considered obese. Symonds tells MarketWatch that “it’s all about overall energy balance” so people who eat too much or are inactive, for example, will “counteract any stimulation of brown fat [from] coffee.”
To determine that coffee stimulates brown fat, the researchers used thermal imaging to look at the brown fat reserves in the body. They think that the caffeine in coffee might be what’s responsible for the brown fat stimulation. Symonds tells MarketWatch he thinks that coffee stimulates brown fat by stimulating our nervous system.
This isn’t the only study to suggest that coffee can benefit your health. A 2015 study published in the journal Circulation found that drinking coffee was associated with an 8%-15% reduced risk of early death. And Harvard Medical School notes that it may cut your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
But it also has risks like anxiety and sleep impairment, particularly when you consume too much. Some experts recommend that you cap coffee consumption at about three cups a day, and don’t drink it in the late afternoon or evening.