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Coffee – help in the battle against surplus kilos?

Coffee is highly prized for its stimulating effect on increasing the metabolic rate, and is an integral part of many people’s daily diet. Recent studies now reveal that caffeine raises the consumption of energy in the human body.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham discovered that coffee has a direct impact on brown adipose tissue, the prime function of which is thermoregulation. White adipose tissue, by contrast, serves to regulate metabolism in the body. The colour of brown adipose tissue stems from the high number of mitochondria, which act as a “powerhouse” for the cell. These have the special task of breaking down lipids and glucose, thereby releasing energy contained within as heat. It was originally thought that brown adipose tissue only occurred in infants and plays a decisive role in keeping the body temperature at a constant level. However, thanks to modern methods of investigation, we now know that there is a smaller amount of brown adipose tissue in adults too.

In experiments with cells, researchers were initially able to determine the stimulating effect that caffeine has on the brown adipose tissue, and then followed this up by investigating the impact of coffee on brown adipose tissue in people. Preliminary studies with adults revealed that areas around the neck and collarbone, in particular, are predisposed to brown adipose tissue. Consequently, researchers focussed on this region and examined it using heat images. In two sessions, the test subjects drank 200 ml coffee, and a control group drank water at the same temperature as the coffee. The heat images were taken after a 30-minute break.

They showed that coffee led to a significant rise in temperature on the skin’s surface, which was not the case for the subjects who had drunk water.

These initial results show that coffee, even in small quantities, can have an impact on the activity of brown adipose tissue in humans. People who wish to lose weight, can enjoy coffee in the knowledge that it burns more calories than other drinks. Nevertheless, physical activity and a healthy diet remain the key factors in losing weight.

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