While it’s great to enjoy a rich and creamy cappuccino after a workout, what exactly is it that gives you that extra bounce? New studies now explain how that café lifestyle is helping to fight obesity.
The Science Behind Coffee’s Fat-Fighting Power
As early as the 17th century, physicians have noticed that the coffee bean contains a substance that improves serum lipase, an enzyme that helps break down fat. While there’s no specific medical term for this “coffee-burnt” enzyme, it has been referred to as a “lipase inhibitor.”
To confirm this phenomenon, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 90 overweight and obese adults. After two weeks of consuming a normal diet, the participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a low-fat milk group, a low-fat yogurt group, or a control group that was given a placebo. Each type of food was presented in a different form, such as a shake, a muffin, or a pastry so participants couldn’t possibly know what they were receiving.
Two weeks later, the participants returned for a second appointment and were given a blood test to check for changes in their cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The results showed that the groups that consumed the high-fat foods had significant decreases in their cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while the individuals in the placebo group had an increase in their cholesterol and triglyceride levels compared to when they started.
Based on these findings, the scientists behind the study concluded that eating high-fat foods could prevent weight gain and promote weight loss. But it wasn’t just the diet that helped make coffee a weight loss superstar – the compounds in coffee specifically targeted body fat deposits, especially in the liver where they help to inhibit the enzymatic activity of malic enzyme and fatty acid synthase, preventing them from doing their job of synthesizing fats from carbohydrates.
If you’re looking to shed those extra pounds, you can start by cutting back on the sugar and starch in your diet, opting for fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. To lose weight, you might also want to consider coffee’s unique metabolic effects combined with a strength training routine.
How Coffee Changes Your Body’s Chemistry
In addition to altering your body’s ability to process and use fats, coffee also alters the way your body’s chemical make-up functions. When you drink coffee, your body produces more dopamine than usual, a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, attention, and pleasure. While coffee’s effects on dopamine are well established, what is less known is that it also influences the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin. These are known as “cuddle” or “love” hormones because they help establish and maintain social bonds.
Oxytocin is known to be released during pregnancy, childbirth, and the act of nursing. It also promotes pair bonding in animals and humans, making it a central player in monogamous relationships. In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers found that when men consumed a cup of coffee, their level of serum oxytocin increased by 42%. Not only that, but it stayed elevated for at least two and a half hours after their last cup. The same researchers later tested coffee’s effects on women and found that it too increased their levels of oxytocin, by 40% in one experiment and 49% in another.
Vasopressin is a naturally occurring hormone that is responsible for maintaining water homeostasis. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Endocrinology, researchers found that when men consumed coffee, their levels of vasopressin increased by 22% compared to when they drank a placebo. This increase was still evident 30 minutes after the men had their last cup of coffee.
While we wait for more clinical trials regarding coffee and obesity, the evidence so far indicates that we should drink this miraculous beverage. Not only is it helping to increase the health and well-being of millions of people around the world, but it might also just be the answer to our weight loss problems.