Coffee and ‘brown fat’ could be the secrets to fighting obesity

Caffeinate the fat away.

Scientists at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom have discovered that drinking a cup of joe may fight obesity and diabetes by helping the body burn fat.

“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,” says Professor Michael Symonds, the study’s co-director.

Brown adipose tissue or “brown fat” generates body heat by burning calories. It is most often found in babies and hibernating mammals, but recently it’s been discovered in adult humans as well. The more commonly known white fat, in contrast, serves to store excess calories. Those with a lower body mass index have more brown fat.

By stimulating the good brown fat, which helps burn off the bad white fat, coffee could also potentially help prevent obesity and diabetes, according to the study published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports.

Until now, there was no known way to stimulate brown fat, which is most often found in the neck region. Through thermal imaging, the scientists found that, after having a drink of coffee, the brown fat got hotter, meaning it was burning more calories.

Scientists are uncertain if it’s the caffeine in coffee or another ingredient that’s responsible for this.

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“We are currently looking at caffeine supplements to test whether the effect is similar,” says Symonds. When it’s determined what exactly in coffee is helping increase brown fat, it can be isolated and potentially used for therapeutic purposes.

Symonds says: “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 program to help prevent diabetes.”

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