Researchers from the University of Illinois have conducted a new study on rats that suggests caffeine may offset some of the health risks associated with diets high in sugar and fat. What they found was that rats who consumed caffeine which was extracted from mate tea gained 16% less weight and accumulated 22% less body fat compared to rats who consumed decaffeinated mate tea.
Mate tea is an herbal beverage high in flavonoids, phytochemicals, and amino acids. It is consumed as a stimulant by people living in southeastern Latin American countries. The amount of caffeine in a serving of mate tea ranges from 65 to 130 milligrams. The caffeine in coffee ranges from 30 to 300 milligrams per one cup.
The rats in the study ate a diet that contained 40% fat, 15% protein and 45% carbohydrates for four weeks. They also consumed one of the forms of caffeine equivalent to someone who drinks four cups of coffee daily.
At the end of the study period, the percentage of lean body mass in the different groups of the rats differed significantly. The rats that consumed caffeine from the mate tea, coffee, or synthetic sources accumulated less body fat compared to the rats in the other groups.
The accumulation of lipids in the adipocytes in the rats was significantly associated with increased body fat and greater body weight gain. To understand the mechanism of this action, the team performed cell culture studies where they exposed adipose cells from mice to synthetic caffeine or the mate or coffee extracts.
They discovered that regardless of the source, caffeine decreased the accumulation of lipids in adipose cells by 20% to 41%. The team also tracked the expression of a variety of genes that are associated with obesity and lipid metabolism. This included the fatty acid synthase gene (Fasn) which is an enzyme compound involved in the synthesis of fatty acids from glucose, and also the lipoprotein lipase gene (Lpl) which codes for an enzyme which breaks down triglycerides.
All caffeine treatments regardless of the origin significantly down regulated the expression of both Fasn and Lpl. Within the cell cultures, Fasn expression diminished by 31% to 39% and the Lpl expression diminished by 51% to 69% among cells that had been treated with synthetic caffeine or the caffeine derived from coffee or mate tea.
In the rats that were given the mate tea caffeine, expression of Fasn decreased by 39% in their fat tissue and decreased by 37% in their livers. Additionally, the decreased expression of the Fasn gene and two other genes in the liver evoked a lower production of low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver.
The study adds to a growing body of research which suggests mate tea might help fight obesity. It also provides other beneficial health effects associated with the vitamins, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds it contains.
Based on the studies findings, caffeine can be considered an anti obesity agent. The consumption of caffeine from mate and other sources alleviates the negative impact of a high sucrose and high fat diet on body composition due to the modulation of certain lipogenic enzymes in the liver and adipose tissue. The diminished expression of Lpl and Fasn brought about the lower synthesis and accumulation of triglycerides in the andipose tissue.
The findings of the study could be scaled to people to understand the roles of caffeine and mate tea as possible strategies in preventing overweight and obesity in addition to subsequent metabolic disorders which are associated with these conditions.
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