Study finds drinking coffee may stimulate calorie-burning brown fat

Coffee may have anti-obesity effects due to its ability to stimulate the body's brown fat, according to a new study. Brown fat is one of two types of adipose tissue found in humans; unlike its white counterpart, brown fat burns calories in order to generate body heat, promoting a lower body mass. Larger quantities of brown fat are found in people with lower BMIs, having the added effect of helping protect against obesity-related conditions.

The study comes from the University of Nottingham, where researchers found that coffee stimulated brown fat in humans, though it's unclear whether that stimulant effect was caused by the caffeine or some other compound in the beverage. The findings were made possible by the use of a thermal imaging technique that determines the heat-producing capability of brown fat stores in the body.

As part of their research, scientists had study participants drink coffee, then they monitored the individuals' brown fat to see if it produced more heat after consuming the beverage. Using this technique, the researchers determined that coffee does stimulate the brown fat, meaning it burns more calories to produce more heat.

The researchers are planning future tests involving caffeine, rather than coffee, to determine whether some other compounds in the beverage were responsible for stimulating the brown fat. The compounds driving the stimulation may be a promising future solution for targeting brown fat in order to increase the amount of calories burned and reduce obesity risk.

Talking about the potential benefits of brown fat stimulation was the study's co-director professor Michael Symonds, who said:

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.