CAMBRIDGE, England — Could coffee be the answer to the world’s growing obesity problem? A new study finds that women who drink two to three cups of coffee per day tend to have lower levels of body and abdominal fat than women who don’t indulge in java.
The results among men weren’t quite as noticeable, but these findings nonetheless make a strong case that coffee holds untapped anti-obesity potential.
To come to their conclusions, the team at Anglia Ruskin University examined data collected by the the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a research initiative put together by the CDC. Participants were asked about their daily coffee-drinking habits, as well as their total body fat percentage and abdominal fat percentage.
Women aged 20-44 who drank two to three cups of coffee daily had, on average, 3.4% lower levels of abdominal fat than non-coffee drinkers. For older women, the benefits were even more pronounced; women aged 45-69 who drank four or more cups per day had 4.1% lower abdominal fat.
Across all female age groups, women who drank two to three cups of coffee per day had 2.8% lower total body fat than non-coffee drinkers.
“Our research suggests that there may be bioactive compounds in coffee other than caffeine that regulate weight and which could potentially be used as anti-obesity compounds,” comments Dr. Lee Smith, Reader in Public Health at Anglia Ruskin University and senior author of the study, in a release.
Somewhat surprisingly, these observations held true even if the women were drinking decaf coffee. Smoker status and prior medical histories didn’t seem to influence the effect of coffee on weight either.
Men also saw some weight loss from coffee consumption, albeit not as significantly as women. Men between the ages of 20-44 drinking two or three cups of coffee per day had 1.8% lower abdominal fat and 1.3% lower overall body fat than non-coffee drinking male participants.
“It could be that coffee, or its effective ingredients, could be integrated into a healthy diet strategy to reduce the burden of chronic conditions related to the obesity epidemic,” Dr. Smith explains. “It is important to interpret the findings of this study in light of its limitations – the study was at a specific point in time so trends cannot be established. However, we don’t believe that someone’s weight is likely to influence their coffee consumption.”
The study is published in the Journal of Nutrition.