As if we needed another excuse to get our coffee fix!
While we've long known there is a wealth of health benefits associated with drinking coffee – think being linked to improved cognitive function, heart health and fitness performance and decreased risk of liver disease and type 2 diabetes – a new study has discovered the liquid gold could even help people lose weight!
The new study, conducted by Nottingham University and published in Scientific Reports, has linked coffee consumption with stimulating 'brown fat', a calorie-burning fat originally thought to only be found in babies and hibernating animals, but has since been found in small quantities in adult humans too.
Also known as brown adipose tissue, brown fat's main function is to generate heat by burning calories, unlike the other kind of fat – white fat – which is made by storing 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 a cold," explains study co-director Professor Michael Symonds.
"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," Professor Symonds says.
That's where coffee comes in; with Professor Symonds explaining it's the first study on humans to show that something like a cup of coffee can have a direct effect on our brown fat functions.
To test how coffee affects brown fat, researchers started with a series of stem cell studies. Once they found the right dosage they moved to humans to see if it there would be a similar effect.
It was known that brown fat is generally stored around an adult's neck, so using a thermal imaging technique the researchers were able to track whether the fat got hotter after the participant drank a cup of coffee, with results positively showing that the coffee did heat the brown fat - meaning it would be burning calories.
Now, the next step is to find out whether it's the caffeine in the coffee, or a different component, that is the stimulus and researchers hope this could lead to ways to incorporate their findings into a weight management regime.
"We are currently looking at caffeine supplements to test whether the effect is similar," Professor 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 programme to help prevent diabetes."
While this is certainly exciting news for coffee fans, it should be noted that while coffee has been found to have plenty of benefits, as a recent study showed that there is a limit to how much coffee you should have a day before coffee becomes the opposite of beneficial.
Sip on more than six cups a day and you could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 22 per cent – that's pretty significant.
As one of the lead researchers of the study, Professor Elina Hyppönen from the University of South Australia says: "As with many things, it's all about moderation; overindulge and your health will pay for it."
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