Caffeine is a very controversial ingredient. While some studies accuse it of favoring migraine risks, from lung cancer or the esophagus, others on the contrary extol its merits against Parkinson’s, cancer of the liver or that of the prostate. Several researches have also highlighted its benefits against bad cholesterol and in weight loss. Today, in a new study on rats, American scientists found that caffeine had reduced weight gain by 16% and body fat gain by 22%, compared to animals on the same diet rich in fats and sugar. This study was published in the Journal of Functional Foods.
To arrive at these conclusions, scientists from the University of Illinois (USA) fed six groups of rats a diet high in fat and sugar for 28 days. They supplemented the diet of five of the groups with synthetic caffeine, mate tea containing caffeine, caffeine extracted from mate tea, caffeine extracted from coffee and decaffeinated mate tea.
Mate, or yerba mate, is a drink made from the leaves of the tree Ilex paraguariensis. It is very popular in South America: Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. The amount of caffeine given to rodents was equivalent to what a human ingests if he consumes four cups of coffee a day.
Decreased expression of genes that code for fatty acid synthase
After 28 days, the researchers found a significant difference in lean body mass between the six groups of rats. Those who consumed caffeine from any source gained less body fat than their counterparts in the caffeine-free group. They noticed a close link between lipid storage in fat cells, weight gain and increased fat mass.
Next, the researchers studied the effects of caffeine in cell cultures of rats. They exposed them to three types of caffeine: synthetic extracted from coffee and extracted from mate. Results: lipid accumulation in fat cells decreased by 20 to 41%, regardless of the type of caffeine. Caffeine has led to a decline in the expression of genes that code for fatty acid synthase (FASN), an enzyme that helps produce long-chain fatty acids, and lipoprotein lipase (LPL), a very important in the breakdown of triglycerides. In detail, cell culture tests showed that the expression of FASN had decreased from 31 to 39% and that of LPL from 51 to 69%. In addition, downregulation of FASN and two other genes in the liver of rats reduced the production of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides in these organs.
Overall, rats that consumed caffeine extract had 16% less weight gain and 22% lower body fat than rats that had decaffeinated mate. “Given the results, mate tea and caffeine can be considered anti-obesity agents,” says study author Professor Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, director of nutritional sciences at the university. .
More and more studied mate tea
“The results of this research could be applied to humans 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,” she concludes. .
Recently, Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia had published the results of a another fairly similar study. In her previous experiment, she and her team had noticed that treating the fat cells of mice with extracts from the skin of coffee beans resulted in a reduction of the inflammation induced by fat in the cells, better absorption of glucose and insulin sensitivity. A phenomenon caused by two phenolic compounds, protocatechoic acid and gallic acid. People prone to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease would therefore benefit from the consumption of these components, concluded the researchers.
As for mate tea, science has been interested in its potential health benefits for a few years now. Rich in flavonoids and phenolic compounds, it is thought to protect against infections, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Worldwide, 13% of adults are obese
Coffee and mate tea could therefore be readily available and affordable strategies to combat obesity, a major health issue worldwide. Currently, this affliction affects at least 13% of adults worldwide and is responsible for at least 2.8 million deaths a year (or overweight).
Obesity and overweight are major risk factors in many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, fatty liver and cardio-metabolic diseases. They are also responsible for 7 to 41% of cancers.
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