Drinking a cup of coffee can stimulate “brown fat,” a type of body fat that generates body heat by burning calories, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Nottingham. This discovery, the researchers suggest, may have implications for treating obesity and diabetes.
Brown fat was previously thought to be present only in babies, but it was more recently discovered that adults can have brown fat as well. Using thermal imaging to view the brown fat, the investigators were able to see that it got hotter right after drinking coffee.
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“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,” says Professor Michael Symonds, co-director of 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.”
The next step, the researchers say, is to determine if it’s the caffeine or another component in coffee that’s stimulating the brown fat. Once it has been isolated, the substance could potentially be used as part of a weight management or diabetes prevention regimen.
Senior Digital Editor for DiabetesSelfManagement.com, Fennell has 16 years’ experience specializing in diabetes and related health conditions. Based in New York City, she has a degree from Columbia University.