Approved by the What’s Up Moms Medical Advisory Board
Good news, moms: That intense coffee addiction you have is doing more than keeping those peepers open. It may be helping you look great in your yoga pants (that’s what moms wear, right?).
You already love coffee more than life itself for being that steamy elixir that gets you out of bed each day and helps you get it all done. But now research shows that coffee may also help with blood sugar control and weight management.
According to a study from the University of Nottingham recently published in Scientific Reports, coffee activates something called brown adipose tissue (BAT), aka brown fat, which is tissue that helps people maintain a healthy BMI.
Unlike white fat, the undesirable kind we’re familiar with, brown fat is the “good fat” that creates heat by burning sugar and fat, often in response to cold. This, in turn, helps to regulate blood sugar and improve blood lipid levels (both of which are instrumental for long-term metabolic health) — and the burning of all those extra calories helps with weight loss. That’s right, it’s fat that actually helps reduce the amount of other fat. Turns out if you have more brown fat, you probably have a lower BMI.
The researchers in this study were investigating ways to combat obesity and diabetes. They first used stem cells to determine the right amount of caffeine needed to activate brown fat; then they tried out the dose on human subjects. The scientists utilized thermal imaging techniques to observe the subjects’ responses and found that drinking a cup of coffee caused areas with brown fat to heat up—an indication that those cells were burning calories.
Until recently, we thought that only babies and hibernating mammals had brown fat. But now we know that adults can have it, too—and it appears in odd places, like the neck region.
Now, why and how coffee helps heat up brown fat is not yet known. Professor Michael Symonds, co-director of the study, suggested that it could be the caffeine alone that activates brown fat, or it could be caffeine in combination with some other compound in coffee that’s effective. The team will experiment with caffeine supplements in the next round of study to determine whether it has the same effect as coffee.
No doubt the researchers were using plain ol’ joe—not your favorite double caramel Mochaccino. Still, this is good news for us coffee-swilling moms. Drinking coffee = exercise. Sure, it may not be CrossFit. But it’s worth a try.