The University of Nottingham recently published a study in Scientific Reports that found a surprising benefit to drinking coffee: stimulating brown fat.
All fat tissue is adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue (BAT, or brown fat) works by burning fat by generating body heat, whereas regular fat stores calories. Most mammals have brown fat, but it was unknown if adult humans had brown fat until recently. Brown fat generates heat and can be stimulated by the body’s response to cold weather.
Brown fat has benefits for the body, including improving blood sugar and lipid levels, and burning calories to facilitate weight loss. Even though scientists knew it had benefits, they were unsure of how to stimulate it until the study used thermal imaging to locate where adults stored the brown fat and how they released it.
Most of the brown fat adults store is in the neck. They gave participants coffee and saw the brown fat area heated up on the thermal imaging, suggesting an activation of the brown adipose tissue. Now the question scientists face is whether it was the caffeine in the coffee acting alone, or whether it was a synergistic effect based on the other constituents present in coffee.
Professor Symonds at the University of Nottingham is now interested in testing caffeine supplements for similar effects, and he is hopeful for the possibilities of establishing a brown fat stimulator which could help prevent and manage diabetes.
- Velickovic, Ksenija, et al. “Caffeine Exposure Induces Browning Features in Adipose Tissue in Vitro and in Vivo.” Scientific Reports, 24 June 2019, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-45540-1.