Hint: it has to do with the caffeine.
Experts talk about how important hydration is for health and weight loss. And they also talk a lot about how to cut calories in things like your daily coffee. Now, new research shows that one cup of regular coffee could boost “brown fat” — and it could be another breakthrough for weight loss research.
What is brown fat?
Scientists from the University of Nottingham tested nine healthy male and female volunteers to see if caffeine stimulates “brown fat”. These fat cells differ from white or regular body fat cells because the body uses this fat to generate heat, according to Jaime Harper, MD, an obesity medicine physician who was not part of this study. Meanwhile, regular body fat cells store energy, says Dr. Harper. And according to Jamie Kane, MD, the director of the Northwell Health Center for Weight Management, people also refer to this tissue as “baby fat.” Because it generates heat, it also burns calories, unlike other types of fat that can contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance, and further weight gain, says Dr. Kane, who was also not part of this study. (Find out if coffee causes inflammation.)
What did the researchers find?
Researchers involved in the study tested whether the caffeine in coffee stimulates these brown fat cells in humans. So the team determined each volunteer’s brown fat reserves and how much heat they produce using thermal imaging. They scanned the participants before and after drinking a cup of coffee, containing about 65 mg of caffeine, or plain water to see the impact.
The results show that drinking a single, standard cup of coffee can boost brown fat, which is said to increase the body’s metabolism — meaning that making these fat cells work hard using coffee burns more calories. We already know that these 7 things happen to your body when you drink coffee every day, but this research is a good start to look at how what we eat and drink affects how the body functions and uses energy, says Dr. Harper.
However, the study did not show that patients lost weight by drinking caffeine. “While brown fat has a promising future in terms of weight loss, adult humans have so little brown fat that it has not been proven to play a role in overall body metabolism,” says Dr. Harper. There are, according to Dr. Kane also some other study limitations. They used only a small sample of patients who were all normal weight.
What does this mean for the future?
The next step for researchers is to determine how the body produces more brown fat and stimulates the metabolism. Researchers hope the body stimulates more brown fat so it may help with weight loss, according to Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, a health expert not involved in the study. But until more research is done, keep drinking your regular cup of joe for the taste or the caffeine — and notice how much caffeine is really in your cup of coffee. Make sure you don’t negate coffee’s health benefits, potential or otherwise, with extra sugars or fat, says Dr. kane.