Scientists have discovered that drinking a cup of coffee can stimulate the body’s own fat-fighting defenses, ‘brown fat’, and helps in tackling obesity and diabetes, per findings of a latest study. Scientists from the University of Nottingham in their pioneering study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, aims to investigate the components that can have a direct impact on ‘brown fat’ functions, an important part of the human body that deals with burning calories, as energy.
Professor Michael Symonds, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham who co-directed the study, said: “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.”
“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, “Symonds stated.
The team kicked-off their research with a series of stem cell studies to found if caffeine stimulated brown fat or not. Once they found the right dose of caffeine, they then shifted on to humans to see if results were similar. They used a thermal imaging technique to trace body fat reserves, which helped in locating brown fat and investigating their ability to produce heat energy.
“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. 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 added.
He said after confirming the component responsible for the process, it can potentially be used for weight management regimes or for glucose regulation programmes.
Brown adipose tissue (BAT), also called brown fat, is one of two kinds of fat found in humans and other mammals. Primarily only attributed to babies and hibernating mammals, it was found in recent years that adults can have these too. Its primary function is to produce body heat by burning calories (opposite to white fat, which results from storing an excess amount of calories).