A recent study conducted by scientists at the University of Nottingham suggests that drinking a cup of coffee stimulates ‘brown fat’ i.e. Brown adipose tissue (BAT). This ‘brown fat’ is the human body’s own fat-fighting defense which helps in tackling obesity and diabetes and plays a key part in how quickly a human body burns calories as energy. The research was a pioneer study as it was carried out in humans to examine components that have a direct impact on the functions of ‘brown fat’. It is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
One of the two types of fat in mammals including human, brown fat was believed found in babies and hibernating mammals. But recent studies discovered that it was a part of adult human bodies too. The BAT generates body heat by burning calories – on the other hand, white fat is a result of storing excess calories. A higher amount of brown fat is found in people with a lower body mass index (BMI).
"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 lossm. However, until now, no one has found an acceptable way to stimulate its activity in humans,” says Professor Michael Symonds, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham who co-directed the study.
"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."
"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," continues Professor Symonds, "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.”
“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,” he explains.