March 17, 2023 — Having higher levels of caffeine in your blood may lower body fat and type 2 diabetes risk, according to a new study published in BMJ Medicine.
Although additional research is needed, the findings open possibilities regarding the role that calorie-free caffeinated beverages may play in reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and other conditions.
“Caffeine has been implicated in affecting metabolism and is commonly consumed in drinks. It is therefore important to better understand what effect it may have on metabolism,” said senior study author Dipendra Gill, PhD, Imperial said professor of epidemiology at College London.
“However, we want to emphasize that individuals should not change their dietary preferences or lifestyle based on the findings of our study alone.” “Further validation in the form of clinical trials is needed first. Also, too much caffeine can have harmful effects, so balance is essential.
Previous studies have found that drinking 3–5 cups of coffee per day is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and that drinking 100 mg of caffeine per day can increase energy expenditure by about 100 calories per day. An average cup of coffee contains about 70–150 mg of caffeine.
However, most published research has focused on observational studies, which do not prove cause and effect. A number of other factors may be involved, including other ingredients in caffeinated drinks and foods, according to lead author Susanna C. Larsson, PhD, of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues.
Katarina Kos, MD, PhD, a senior lecturer in diabetes and obesity at the University of Exeter, UK, agrees. She said this genetic study “shows links and potential health benefits for people with certain genes that are responsible for faster [caffeine] … metabolism as an inherited trait and potentially a better metabolism.”
“This does not study or recommend drinking more coffee, which was not the purpose of this research,” she said. told the UK Science Media Center, Kos was not involved in this study.
In the new analysis, researchers examined data from 10,000 people of predominantly European ancestry who participated in six long-term studies.
They examined two specific genetic mutations that have been linked to a slower rate of caffeine metabolism. In general, people with these two common genetic variants will have higher levels of caffeine in their blood after consuming coffee, or other caffeinated beverages, than people who metabolize caffeine faster.
Then they looked at how caffeine levels tracked with increased body fat, type 2 diabetes risk, and risk of major heart conditions such as coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, and irregular heart rhythms.
The two gene variants resulted in “genetically predicted, lifelong, higher plasma caffeine concentrations,” noted the researchers “and were associated with lower body mass index and fat mass as well as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.”
There were no strong associations with a lower risk of developing any of the major heart conditions in this study.
They found that weight loss accounted for about 43% of the effect of caffeine on type 2 diabetes risk.
“The finding that high plasma caffeine levels can reduce body weight and type 2 diabetes risk adds to what is known about its effects on metabolism,” Gill said. “We are now discovering the wide-ranging effects of caffeine on health outcomes and the potential mechanisms that may mediate this.”
The researchers noted several limitations, including that they only studied two genetic variants and that study participants were primarily of European ancestry. He also stressed caution about drawing strong conclusions or changing behavior.
Kos agrees. “When considering consumption of coffee and caffeinated energy drinks, one must keep in mind the potential negative offset by surplus calories in the form of sugar and fat in many of these drinks,” she said.
“Also a benefit has yet to be proven for the option of increasing the use of calorie-free caffeine drinks,” Kos said.