Ladies, is coffee consumption affecting your fat distribution?
Obesity is a huge problem globally, related to many chronic diseases and higher mortality. This science article discusses a study published in The Journal of Nutrition that found an association between coffee consumption and fat distribution and percentage fat in adult women.
We all have heard, “You are what you eat!” But have you ever wondered why? Food has many compounds that can potentially affect our organs, gut environment, and even mood! A collaborative study by researchers on adults in the United States has found a relation between high coffee consumption and lower adiposity. Adiposity is the accumulation of fat in specific areas such as the neck, breasts, and abdomen. The team that included biostatisticians, physicians and nutrition experts, found that higher coffee consumption was associated with lower fat in the chest and abdominal area, and lesser body fat percentage in women. According to WHO, obesity has increased three folds worldwide since the 1970s. Identification of compounds in coffee that can reduce harmful fat distribution might help promote a healthy diet.
Credits: Unsplash Coffee lovers might be delighted that higher cups of coffee you drink, you might be cutting off body fat! But lead author Chao Cao from the Washington University School of Medicine cautions, “Our findings only observed that regular coffee drinkers have lower levels of fat. Further clinical trials must ascertain whether increased coffee consumption can, in fact, reduce fat”. Interestingly, the results also varied based on ethnicity/race! While for non-Hispanic white women and Hispanic women, the association between the amount of coffee consumed was observed, Hispanic black women didn’t show this trend. However, the overall evidence on the health benefits of coffee is strong in different populations.
This study stands out from those previously done on obesity because it does not depend on BMI, which is not a good measure of body fat. A person with more muscle and bone mass will still have a higher BMI than a person whose weight is less but has more body fat which is harmful. This study used a body scan called DXA to measure the fat distribution or adiposity. Chao Cao explains that DXA is the gold standard for measuring body fat %, which uses X-rays to picture the inner body. It can show body composition based on the difference in density of body tissues. This study used self-reported data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) programme for coffee consumption frequency. Many factors such as illness, food habits, smoking, and socio-demographic differences like age and sex can influence the adiposity of a person, which cannot be attributed to coffee consumption. These were taken into account from the NHANES database to remove the influence of external factors on the results.
In another study published in 2020, drinking hot tea was associated with lower fat. It would be interesting to extend this study to different countries and beverages and determine what it is in the contents that is beneficial to consumers. It is known that mainly caffeine in coffee leads to an increase in body temperature and greater metabolic rate. Since the results are observed in females but not males, it is speculated that caffeine might control sex steroid hormones responsible for differential distribution and amounts of adiposity. But, because decaffeinated coffee also showed the same effects, some compounds other than caffeine might be accountable, and further research is needed.
Coffee has a vast number of compounds that can influence the biology of an organism. While some studies link it with increased blood pressure and urinary bladder cancer, others have linked moderate coffee drinking with a reduction in diabetes and overall mortality. The scientific community is still debating on how beneficial coffee consumption can be. Importantly this study opens avenues to link compounds in coffee that might be influencing obesity and to understand how.
Credits: Unsplash How to motivate people to improve their overall eating patterns by adding simple foods for a healthy lifestyle? Chao Cao says, “Compared with specific nutrients, suggestions regarding single foods are easier for people to digest and adopt”. Adiposity in itself is not easily recognisable in everyday life and is unlikely to alter coffee habits. But, by understanding which compounds are responsible for the healthy distribution of fats, we are encouraging studies on finding such components from similar beverages.
Chao Cao, Qinran Liu, Mohammad Abufaraj, Yunan Han, Tianlin Xu, Thomas Waldhoer, Shahrokh F Shariat, Shengxu Li, Lin Yang, Lee Smith, Regular Coffee Consumption Is Associated with Lower Regional Adiposity Measured by DXA among US Women, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 7, July 2020, Pages 1909–1915, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa121
Sanskruti Biswal is a 2021 IISER Kolkata alumnus with an integrated BS-MS degree majoring in biological sciences. A student of Science and Health Communication at the University of Manchester, she wants to work full-time as a science communicator in future. She loves to dabble in anything sci-comm – talking about the field in Youtube videos, working as an science explainer in events, creating and editing content among other things. Indoors drives her crazy, and if not seen mindlessly scrolling through her phone, she can be found dancing, cooking, or on walks.
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