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Caffeine could help boost consumers' otherwise unhealthy diets

Researchers suggest that caffeine could be effective in keeping weight gain at bay

Photo (c) MariuszBlach - Getty Images
With caffeine intake on the upswing nationwide, many consumers may be wondering how much of the energizing supplement is too much. 

Now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that caffeine could be an effective way for consumers to boost their diets and offset some of the negative risks associated with eating foods high in fats or sugars. 

Fighting obesity

Much like a previous study that examined the obesity-fighting agents found in green tea, the researchers of this study tested the health benefits of caffeine found in mate tea, coffee, and synthetic caffeine. 

The researchers conducted their study on rats, having them follow diets high in fats and carbs while supplementing the food with one of the three types of caffeine. The rats ingested the caffeine equivalent of a human drinking four cups of coffee per day, while a control group received decaffeinated versions. At the end of the four weeks, the researchers saw a significant difference in the rats who were consuming the caffeine versus those who had been consuming the decaf variations. 

Though all caffeine types were associated with overall less body fat and less weight gain, the rats who consumed the mate tea, a drink common in Latin American countries with higher caffeine levels than traditional coffee, had the best health outcomes. The researchers found that the mate tea was associated with over 20 percent less body fat and 16 percent less weight gain.

Anti-obesity agent

The researchers say that caffeine was able to work in this way because it limits the number of fat-storing cells, and therefore decreases overall body fat percentage. 

Though this study was conducted on rats, the researchers hope that these findings serve as inspiration for humans, as caffeine plays an interesting role in the way the body stores and produces fat.  

“Considering the findings, mate tea and caffeine can be considered anti-obesity agents,” said researcher Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia. “The results of this research could be scaled to humans to understand to understand the roles of mate tea and caffeine as potential strategies to prevent overweight and obesity, as well as the subsequent metabolic disorders associated with these conditions.”

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