Talking about someone’s coffee consumption can be like talking about sports, religion or politics…subjects you know are going to lead to an argument, or at least a strong difference in opinion. Hence, these are good subjects to avoid if you’re just trying to get along!

There has been a lot of talk lately, as perhaps has been the case on a revolving basis over the last few decades, about the benefits, risks, side effects and potentially addictive behaviour attached to coffee consumption in general. Added to the mix now is the concept that caffeine is also a benefit in weight loss efforts.

So the question becomes, “Is coffee bad for weight loss?”

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Professor Peter Rogers, a leading expert on caffeine at Bristol University, himself gave up coffee, as did other members of his team, when studying the effects of caffeine on human performance. This leads to an interesting point: that even though coffee has shown some benefit in weight loss attempts, is it a healthy way to achieve the desired end result?

This is similar to other such conundrums when it comes to health and wellness research and advice. For example, it has long been touted that a glass of red wine per day may have health benefits such as for cardiovascular support. The tannins and antioxidants in the red wine are known to have positive effects on free radical damage and blood vessel health.

However, alcohol itself is known to cause an increase in potential free radical damage and effects cellular health. Therefore, the active components from the grapes that provide this benefit have been extracted and made available in supplement form…no alcohol required!

Alcohol, of course, has other side effects as well.

It’s one of the only, if not the only compound, that has an effect on every cell in the body. Caffeine, classified by many as a drug, triggers withdrawal symptoms after having been used for some time, therefore having some negative effects on various tissues and organs in the body. This is a give and take that is seemingly still unclear in some research circles. Is the benefit worth any potential risks?

Because of caffeine’s association with increasing blood pressure, some researchers, like Professor Jack James at Reykjavik University, suggest that caffeine could account for as many as 14% of premature deaths due to coronary heart disease and up to 20% of premature deaths due to stroke. Other studies show that caffeine may also lead to an increased risk of diabetes and can, on the weight loss front, lead the body to storing excess fat…thereby making less likely for someone to lose weight.

So where does the coffee, caffeine and weight loss connection come from to balance out our “Is coffee bad for weight loss” query?

Well, other studies have been done that contradict much of the above. They show that coffee intake may reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, heart failure, diabetes and even Parkinson’s or cancer. Quite the contrast in opinions and results!

The leading weight associated theories with caffeine come with the notion that the compound may help curb hunger while also increasing metabolism through a process involving thermogenesis. The evidence here seems to be less well supported, and given the other potential side effects, coupled with potential changes to sleep quality and irritability, it certainly doesn’t appear to be the “go to” weight loss choice.

coffee and weightloss 1Interestingly, the potential benefits associated with caffeine, often derived from a coffee source, are also seen with users of decaffeinated coffee. Therefore, it would appear that there is more at play here than just caffeine alone. In fact, the antioxidants in coffee may be the source of the suggested health benefits. Because of their ability to lower inflammation in the body, these antioxidants may be the source of any support for conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and suchlike.

Green coffee beans, the unroasted variety, also have an extract known as chlorogenic acid that appears to lower the amount of carbohydrates absorbed from the diet. In animal studies, this has shown to help decrease weight as well as improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Studies in humans have seemingly reproduced these results and more research is surely on the way.

Coffee, perhaps the most popular caffeine source.

Is regarded as relatively safe to consume, especially if limited to 1 or 2 cups per day, perhaps 100 to 200 mg of caffeine. Of course, some people are slow metabolizers and certainly can get by on 1 cup alone, while others are fast metabolizers and are known to handle 4 or more cups a day without seeming concern. There is a genetic connection to this trait and one can now have gene testing done to determine their potential suitability to caffeine consumption.

At the end of the day, when weighed against key factors such as what someone is eating, how they are eating it, how much they are moving, what levels of stress they are encountering and where their physiology is at (fat storage versus fat burning mode), there would appear to be more primary concerns for optimizing weight and managing it for the future than purely being attached to the hope that caffeine alone can make the difference.

It may be that the jury is still out on the question, “Is coffee bad for weight loss?” The lawyers for the prosecution will tell you it’s not worth the risk. The defence will try to win you over with the fact that it’s not all that bad. And, as is often the case for a consumer in the health care market these days, the verdict lies in your hands…you have the power to choose. Sometimes you have to take the little, albeit guilty, pleasures in life in your stride.

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