Caffeine Could Offset Health Risks from a High-Fat High-Sugar Diet

High-Fat, High-Sugar Diet

Good news, caffeine lovers! Scientists have found that consumption of  caffeine limits weight gain and cholesterol production, despite a diet that was high in fat and sugar. Eating a healthy diet can be challenging for various reasons, so this is good news for those of us who struggle to eat our veggies. And, for those of us who enjoy the occasional high-fat high-sugar treat. Check out the facts below!

The University of Illinois Study

A group from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) reported that caffeine may offset some of the negative effects of a high-fat diet by reducing the storage of lipids in fat cells, limiting weight gain, and controlling the production of triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides can harden the arteries and thicken the artery walls, which is known as arteriosclerosis. So this means that caffeine may support heart health, in addition to limiting weight gain. 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 equivalent to the amount of a human who drinks four cups of coffee daily, which is about 300mg caffeine. The scientist also used caffeine from a variety of sources, including coffee, mate tea, and synthetic 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, caffeine decreased the accumulation of lipids in fat cells by 20%-41%. This means that fewer fat molecules made it into fat cells, which means that the rats gained less weight.

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 lipoprotein lipase gene breaks down fats from the digestive track and transforms them into fat tissue.

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. This means that the caffeinated rats were making less fat tissue as the other group of rats, even though they were eating the same diet!

Regardless of the source of caffeine, caffeine decreased the accumulation of lipids in fat (adipose) cells by 20%-41%. Another positive result from this reduction of gene expression was that the caffeinated rats made fewer compounds that are harmful to heart health, like triglycerides.

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.

Summary of the Study Results

In plain language, the consumption of caffeine, from whatever source, 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.

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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 accumulation. Journal of Functional Foods, 2019; 103646 DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2019.103646