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Coffee and belly fat might not sound like they go together. But in fact, if you’re a big coffee drinker, the connection might be a reality.
Would you rather die than give up your morning cup of Joe? Like to drink several cups of coffee a day? Before you reach for that next cup, consider the following: there’s a direct link between coffee and belly fat. Even worse, your coffee habit might end up killing you sooner than later!
A couple cups of coffee a day can be beneficial for your health. There have been numerous studies linking moderate caffeine intake to positive health outcomes.
Chlorogenic acid (CGA) is an abundant phyto- (plant) chemical found in coffee. Studies like this one show that CGA has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic properties. And, CGA also helps metabolize blood sugar and lipids (fats).
However, the direct correlation between coffee and belly fat might make you reconsider your habit.
What’s the Relationship Between Coffee, Caffeine, Belly Fat, and Cortisol?
But too much of any good thing can be bad. With coffee, it seems that the breaking point from healthful to harmful is about 5 cups. Australian researchers in this study gave mice 3 milligrams of CGA. This is the human equivalent of 5 cups of coffee.
At the 5 cup a day level, mice were not able to metabolize fat effectively in the liver and adipose tissue. The mice that were fed 3 mg of CGA per day had abnormal retention of fat within the cells. (Bad news if you’re a mouse getting ready for swimsuit season!)
This type of fat retention is called visceral fat. Visceral fat is stored in the abdominal cavity. This is where most of your important internal organs reside. The liver, pancreas and intestines are all within the abdominal cavity.
Is it Mother Nature’s cruel trick that we store fat around the midsection? Yes! But there’s a good reason why we retain fat around these areas. And the reason why relates to stress and cortisol.
Before discussing cortisol, though, as you can see, at least in mice, coffee belly fat is a real thing.
Coffee and belly fat
Again, if you stick with a cup of coffee or two, you probably are not at risk for retaining extra body fat. Coffee belly fat probably won’t affect you. You might even get some of the above health benefits. However, if you are a big coffee drinker, it helps to understand the big picture of how caffeine, belly fat, and cortisol relate to each other.
Just like a little coffee is good for you, so is a little stress. Stress makes us feel alive. Without stress we’re like couch-potato zombies. We were designed to handle a little stress. Even flourish. But chronic stress wreaks havoc on your health.
Here’s what happens when you undergo chronic stress: your adrenal glands (which are on top of your kidneys) releases “fight-or-flight” stress hormones. You’ve probably heard of cortisol. There’s also a couple other stress hormones released by the adrenals: norepinephrine and epinephrine.
At the first sign of stress, your stress hormones get to work. Norepinephrine stops producing insulin. The reason: so you have a supply of quick-energy burning blood glucose ready for flight or fight.
Digestion slows way down. Epinephrine relaxes stomach and intestinal muscles. Blood shunts away from these digestive organs.
In a normal, healthy person, the stress stops and all systems go back to normal. But in a constantly stressed out person, cortisol keeps flowing through the body.
Coffee and belly fat: quit coffee lose weight?
Remember how digestion slows down when cortisol surges through the body? If digestion slows down, fat metabolism becomes less effective. And here’s the cruel reason why you tend to store more fat in the abdomen: you have more cortisol receptors in your midsection.
Pretty cruel, right? Well, it’s a starvation prevention mechanism. Think about it…when we undergo stress, our body has no way of knowing when our next meal might be. So it tells digestion to slow down to conserve fat.
And if your cortisol levels continue to surge, you just might get coffee belly fat. Does coffee really cause belly fat, you might be wondering? Again, don’t fret if you just drink a cup or two a day. But if you are someone who is type A and don’t practice meditation or other stress-control activities, you might be more prone to coffee belly fat.
That’s why you might want to only have a half cup of regular coffee. This will prevent caffeine withdrawal symptoms. And then, the rest of the day you can drink decaf. In addition to preventing coffee belly fat, there are other benefits of quitting caffeine.
Coffee and bloating stomach
If you are a 5-cup of coffee a day drinker, maybe you’re not burning fat as effectively. Consequently, you now have more inflammation. You’re also becoming more insulin resistant.
When you need more insulin your body is not storing sugar effectively. This can lead to weight gain and stomach bloating.
In addition, CGA (remember: it’s the plant compound in coffee beans) also is bad for homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid. It’s a byproduct of protein metabolism. When levels are too high, it can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Researchers concluded in a study that coffee drinkers have higher homocysteine levels. If homocysteine levels are a tad high, you probably have nothing to worry about. Just try to cut your coffee intake to 2-3 cups per day, max.
Coffee and belly fat: The coffee belly fat myth
There’s two important things to consider when drinking coffee. First, coffee is not a miracle weight-loss cure. In fact, despite what you may read online, there’s no solid evidence linking coffee consumption to permanent weight loss.
Furthermore, non-organic coffee beans are one of the most toxic crops. This is due to pesticide spraying. Coffee beans can also be moldy.
Any health benefits of caffeine intake does you no good if you’re consuming pesticide residue. That’s why it’s a good reason to make sure you drink organically-grown coffee. And stick to no more than 2 cups per day if you can.
If you’re a heavy coffee drinker, sticking to 2 cups might hurt a little. But now that you know the coffee, caffeine, belly fat, and cortisol relation, it’s better than dying from your cuppa Joe habit.