In a study published in Scientific Reports, scientists have discovered that drinking a cup of coffee can stimulate “brown fat”, the body’s own fat-fighting defenses, which could be the key to tackling obesity and diabetes.
The pioneering study is one of the first to be carried out in humans.
“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,” says Professor Michael Symonds, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham who co-directed the study.
“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,” he went on to say.
Unlike brown fat, another type of fat that scientists call white or yellow fat results from the excessive storage of calories.
Some researchers have suggested that prompting the body to turn white fat into brown fat could be a successful way to fight obesity, and studies have focused on specific pathways that could facilitate this fat burning process.
This study shows 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 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 says.
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