Can coffee help you lose weight?

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The truth about coffee and weight loss.

Another day, another diet study but one particular study published last week in Scientific Reports grabbed our attention when it mentioned coffee and fat loss in the same sentence. Could it be true that our favourite way to kick start the day could also be helping us to get slimmer and if so, what should you coffee order look like to reap any of the potential weight related benefits?

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We have known for some time that coffee has some benefits when it comes to fat metabolism. Specifically it is the caffeine content of coffee that has been shown to increase fat metabolism slightly for an hour or so after drinking it and subsequently those burning extra calories by exercising after enjoying a coffee will also burn a higher proportion of fat if they have no other fuel from food available. 

This latest research has furthered our understanding of this by finding that when both lab rats and humans where given a dose of caffeine in coffee that brown fat stores were activated. Now brown fat is an exciting potential weight loss target as it is the brown fat in the human body which produces heat by burning both sugars and fats. This is compared to white fat which simply stores fat in the body. Researchers believe that by increasing the activity of brown fat it will in turn help to control blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol levels as well as help to burn more calories overall hence aiding fat loss. Excitingly this was the first known study that was able to show increases in the activity of this type of fat. 

Now while this is a one-off study on a small number of rats and humans overall, the results are positive and suggest that the caffeine that we get from our morning coffee potentially has a number of metabolic benefits. What is important to know is that it was not the coffee per se that was specifically related to these benefits but the caffeine content of the drinks. In this study granulated coffee with hot water was served to study participants or via a caffeine solution in the rat study not a large milky Latte. 

While coffee is one of the primary deliverers of caffeine in Australia, the reality is that many of us enjoy our daily coffee with plenty of extra milk, extra sugars and added flavours. Now what we do not know is whether the potential fat burning benefits shown in this study after caffeine consumption are negated when our coffee is consumed with these extra calories. Nor do we know if there is a synergistic effect of the caffeine and coffee that causes this physiological response to caffeine or whether caffeine supplements alone will be enough. All of these questions remain to be answered in future research.

So what does this mean for your morning coffee? If your primary goal is to maximise your fat burning potential, black coffee, especially first thing in the morning is going to be your best bet whether you enjoy a long black or espresso. Adding even plain milk to your morning coffee order adds 60-80 calories and 8-15g of sugars to your coffee which is likely to impact your overall calorie intake and the potential fat burning benefits coffee appears to offer. But the good news is that if a double shot is your thing your brown fat appears much more likely to be getting a morning workout and that is a good thing for our health and weight overall.