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If you’re like me, the next few weeks and months will be a whirlwind of rich foods, thanks to the upcoming holiday season. Last January, my pants were a little tighter, my scale showed I was heavier, and I just didn’t feel as good as I did before the holidays.
Now, that time is upon us again and most of us may have forgotten the resolutions we made to turn our back on the bad eating habits we ended last year with.
Never fear. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you give in to your grandmother’s famous casseroles and desserts. Because there may be an easier way to avoid the ills of those high fat foods…
Drink to decrease weight and body fat
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign delved into the effects of caffeine consumption paired with an obesogenic diet… meaning one high in fats and carbs and probably not too dissimilar to the standard American diet.
The team gave rats an extract of either mate tea (a popular tea in Latin American countries, rich in healthy phytochemicals, flavonoids, and amino acids, and also known as Yerba mate), regular caffeine from coffee, or synthetic caffeine — all while the mice were fed that unhealthy diet.
And, they found that no matter what type of caffeine the rats consumed, the benefits were significant…
The caffeinated rats gained 16 percent less weight and accumulated 22 percent less body fat than rats that were given a decaffeinated mate tea.
So, how did it work?
The scientists found that the caffeine actually stopped the accumulation of lipids in the fat cells to slow weight gain and reduce body fat. In fact, when the team exposed fat cells from mice to caffeine extracts, they found that regardless of source, caffeine decreased the accumulation of lipids in adipose cells by a whopping 20 to 41 percent.
Metabolic benefits that are hard to beat
The study, published recently in the Journal of Functional Foods, adds to a growing body of research that suggests mate tea may help fight obesity in addition to providing other beneficial health effects associated with the phenolic compounds, vitamins, and flavonoids it contains.
A growing number of studies also find that coffee can help beat obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and the theories behind those benefits were also the polyphenol content.
“Considering the findings, mate tea and caffeine can be considered anti-obesity agents,” said Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, a co-author of the study and director of the division of nutritional sciences at the U. of I. “The results of this research could be scaled 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.”
And, about those metabolic disorders…
The team of investigators also found that when the mice were given any of the caffeine extracts, they experienced a lower production of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (that’s your bad cholesterol) as well as triglycerides in the liver.
How much caffeine do you need?
Although the research was done in rats, the researchers say that the amount of caffeine extract that was used in the study to deliver such weight and heart-healthy benefits was equal to the amount you would get by drinking four cups of coffee per day — the amount most coffee studies suggest for peak benefits.
If you’re primarily a tea drinker, mate tea does contain more caffeine than other teas, but less than coffee.
Now if caffeine makes your heart flitter or your hands jittery and your body jumpy, it’s probably not a good idea to start consuming it just because of what you read today.
However, if you’re already a coffee or mate tea fan, drink up knowing it’s helping you fight the ills of a high fat/high carb diet. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make some changes to your diet as you enter the new year for your health’s sake.
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- Caffeine may offset some health risks of diets high in fat, sugar — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau