- Drinking coffee can stimulate the body's fat burning cells — known as brown fat — which can lead to weight loss, according to a study conducted by the University of Nottingham.
- Until recently, brown fat — also known as brown adipose tissue — was not known to exist in adults, according to the researchers. The fat's main function is to rapidly generate body heat by burning calories.
- Michael Symonds, a professor at the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham who co-authored the study, said in a release the next step is to confirm the component of coffee that is activating these brown fat cells is caffeine. In order to do so, the researchers are using caffeine supplements to test whether the effect on brown fat cells is similar to that of coffee.
Long gone are the days when doctors strongly advised against drinking coffee, thinking it could strain the heart and stunt growth. This was based on outdated research that often failed to factor in other lifestyle factors, such as smoking, according to Time.
Even before this new study from the University of Nottingham, coffee was riding high in public opinion with studies showing three cups of coffee daily will lower the risk of heart disease, liver disease and stroke, as well as contribute to a longer life expectancy. Another recent study found that java aficionados do not even need to consume coffee to benefit from its stimulating effects, which can focus the mind and enhance concentration.
Despite the recent accolades, coffee has never been linked to activating brown fat cells. In fact, scientists have not yet discovered why it activates these cells, according to researchers. It was not easy to conclude that coffee caused the effect. Researchers first determined stem-cells exposed to the caffeinated beverage had higher temperatures, which indicated the activation of brown fat cells. Researchers then duplicated this effect in adults through temperature monitoring, which showed after a few swallows of coffee, the clavicle area, which contains the densest population of these cells, displayed increased activity.
Adding fat burning and potential weight loss capabilities to the laundry list of benefits associated with consuming coffee will likely be beneficial for the market. These findings can assure health-minded consumers their morning jolt of caffeine offers more advantages than just a boost. It could also expand the market to those who have yet to jump on the coffee train by repositioning the classic morning cup of joe as a functional beverage, a trendy category that is receiving increased investment.
Coffee is big business in the U.S. The country is the leading global consumer of coffee, with Americans drinking about 400 million cups per day. The high consumption of coffee translates to projected sales reaching nearly $80.9 billion in 2019, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 4.5% through 2023, according to Statista. Seeing the growing popularity of coffee, CPG companies have not been waiting around.
Coca-Cola, J.M. Smucker and Nestlé have recently made big investments into the space. Last August, Coca-Cola announced the purchase of Costa Coffee from U.K. drinks and hotels group Whitbread. Smucker's Folgers brand introduced a high-end brand of 100% Arabica coffee, while Nestlé made a noteworthy investment in Blue Bottle, acquired Chameleon Cold-Brew, and bought the rights to sell Starbucks brand coffee in stores.
These premium coffee options offer a sense of luxury to consumers as they look for upscale options to sip at home. However, cold brew and other chilled coffees are posting the strongest growth. The segment skyrocketed 580% between 2011 and 2016, Mintel research noted.
If researchers can confirm the caffeine in coffee is activating the fat-burning brown cells, big companies investing in coffee — as well as the recent proliferation of caffeine-infused snacks and sparkling waters — could reap the benefits.