NOTTINGHAM, England — If you’re looking for a new diet or weight loss strategy, you may want to consider adding a cup of coffee to your morning routine. Researchers from the University of Nottingham have uncovered that just one cup of coffee can activate “brown fat” in our bodies. Unlike more traditional white fat, brown fat actually burns calories and promotes weight loss.
Brown adipose tissue, more commonly referred to as brown fat, was thought to only be found in human infants and hibernating mammals, but just recently it was discovered that human adults can have brown fat as well. Essentially, brown fat creates body warmth by burning calories.
In light of this revelation, scientists now believe that people who are naturally slimmer with a lower BMI have higher amounts of brown fat in their bodies than individuals who struggle with weight gain or obesity.
“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,” comments study co-director Professor Michael Symonds in a release.
Professor Symonds and his team believe their findings could prove incredibly useful in the fight against obesity and diabetes in modern society.
“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 adds.
First, researchers started off with a series of stem cell experiments to observe if caffeine would stimulate brown fat. After those tests were successful in stimulating brown fat cells, they moved on to human test subjects. Through the use of a thermal imaging technique the research team developed themselves, they were able to observe, track, and assess brown fat reserves.
“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,” Professor Symonds concludes. “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.”
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.