Caffeine could offset health risks from a high-fat high-sugar diet

A group from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) reported that caffeine may offset some of the negative effects of high fat diet by reducing the storage of lipids in fat cells, limiting weight gain and controlling the production of triglycerides.  The study was published in the Journal of Functional Foods.

The study exploring the effect of caffeine on the health risk from high fat diets was carried out on animal model.  For four weeks, the scientists fed the rats a diet that contained 40% fat, 45% carbohydrate and 15% protein. In addition, one group of rats was fed with one of the forms of caffeine in an amount equivalent to that of a human who drinks four cups of coffee daily (about 300mg caffeine).

At the end of the four-week period, the percentage of lean body mass in the various groups of rats differed significantly. The rats that ingested caffeine from tea, coffee or synthetic sources accumulated less body fat than rats in the other groups.

In the regular group, the accumulation of lipids in the fat cells was significantly associated with greater body weight gain and increased body fat.  In the caffeinated group, the scientists found that, regardless of the source of caffeine (synthetic caffeine or the coffee or mate caffeine extracts), caffeine decreased the accumulation of lipids in fat cells by 20%-41%.

The scientists also tracked the expression of several genes associated with obesity and lipid metabolism. These included the fatty acid synthase gene (Fasn), an enzyme compound involved in the synthesis of fatty acids from glucose; and the lipoprotein lipase gene (Lpl), which codes for an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides.

The scientists found that, all of the caffeine treatments, regardless of origin, significantly downregulated the expression of both Fasn and Lpl. In the cell cultures, Fasn expression diminished by 31%-39% and Lpl expression decreased by 51%-69% among cells treated with synthetic caffeine or the caffeine from mate tea or coffee.  Regardless of the source of caffeine, caffeine decreased the accumulation of lipids in adipose cells by 20%-41%.  In the rats that consumed the mate tea caffeine, expression of Fasn decreased by 39% in their fat tissue and by 37% in their livers.  The decreased expression of Fasn and two other genes in the liver led to lower production of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver as well.  In addition, the scientists noted that rats that consumed the caffeine extracted from mate tea gained 16% less weight and accumulated 22% less body fat than rats that consumed decaffeinated mate tea.  The effects were similar with synthetic caffeine and that extracted from coffee.

In plain language, the consumption of caffeine alleviated the negative impact of a high-fat, high-sugar diet by controlling the weight gain and fat formation in the body, as shown in the study.

What’s the take home message?  Daily caffeine consumption in an equivalent of 4 cups of coffee (about 300 mg of caffeine, or 3 Mocca Shots High Caffeine Gummies) may serve to reduce body fat formation, limit weight gain, control blood triglycerides level, reduce cholesterol, and therefore promote cardiovascular and general health. 

Thanks for reading.

Journal Reference: Fatima J. Zapata, Miguel Rebollo-Hernanz, Jan E. Novakofski, Manabu T. Nakamura, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia. Caffeine, but not other phytochemicals, in mate tea (Ilex paraguariensis St. Hilaire) attenuates high-fat-high-sucrose-diet-driven lipogenesis and body fat accumulationJournal of Functional Foods, 2019; 103646 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2019.103646

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