Nottingham, UK—Drinking coffee can stimulate brown fat, the body’s fat-fighting defenses, according toa press releasefrom the University of Nottingham.

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is one of two types of fat found in mammals, the release notes. It was initially believed to only exist in babies and hibernating mammals, but has recently been found in adults. It generates heat by burning calories, unlike white fat, which stores excess calories.

Professor Michael Symonds, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham and co-director of the study, said in the release: “Brown fat produces heat by burning sugar and fat, often in response to cold. Increasing its activity improves blood sugar control as well as improving blood lipid levels and the extra calories burnt help with weight loss. However, until now, no one has found an acceptable way to stimulate its activity in humans.”

Symonds explained that the team used a thermal imaging technique to trace brown fat reserves, often located in the neck region, which, they found, got hotter after drinking coffee, suggesting that brown fat had been activated. The team is currently trying to find out if caffeine supplements cause similar effects, or if the stimulant is actually a different ingredient found in coffee.

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“Once we have confirmed which component is responsible for this,” Symonds said, “it could potentially be used as part of a weight management regime or as part of a glucose regulation programme to help prevent diabetes.