Everyone’s favorite breakfast beverage is suspect.Whether it’s coffee or tea, most North Americans are drinking a caffeinated bevy in the morning and that could make trouble for people who have a hard time losing weight. This is a continuation in a blog series on vices where we talked about alcohol last month.
The caffeine link to weight gain was first identified in the late 1990’s when Diabetes Education Centers reported seeing clients having unexplained and irregular blood sugars. 30% of people were more susceptible to weight gain than the rest of the population by the effects of caffeine consumption. It is unclear whether or not the reported effects of caffeine are due solely to the caffeine, or to a combination of other compounds that are ALWAYS found with caffeine. This means, for some people, even taking a decaffeinated beverage still results in weight-gain because although the caffeine is removed, other compounds are not. A third of the population more sensitive to caffeine consumption and weight gain, suffer one or more of the following: hypoglycemia, food cravings, sweet cravings, insulin resistance and depression. These all potentially set up several feedback loops that are detrimental to weight loss.
Hypoglycemia from the initial cortisol (aging hormone) release creates food cravings to combat low blood sugar. Many people who start the day with coffee consume more food in the afternoon as a rebound effect. This creates a dis-proportionate consumption of calories and a concomitant insulin response that moves energy into fat storage. Regardless of when you consume your caffeine, however, if you are susceptible to hypoglycemia you may find yourself consuming a disproportionate amount of your calories at odd time as opposed to spreading your food out across the day in order to level your blood sugars and your insulin responses. If consuming a caffeinated beverage in the morning results in feelings of satiety and results in you not having an adequate breakfast, then you are enforcing a stress response making your next meal absorbed and stored as fat at a more efficient level (known as Sumo Syndrome).
Studies show that caffeine contributes to insulin resistance thus making it ineffective at moving sugars from your blood into your cells; this resistance is a precursor to diabetes. There is a link to increased fat storage as a result of your cells not receiving timely sugars from the blood. Your built-in defense mechanism is to store whatever energy your cells can instead of burning the energy. Insulin resistance has multiple undesirable effects related to metabolism like weight gain and poor health. Insulin resistance is quite common in adults who are overweight. Since caffeine consumption will exacerbate this metabolic disorder further, if you are trying to lose weight you should monitor yourself for your reaction to caffeine.
If consuming caffeine throughout your days is a consistent pattern then you are constantly running your body on an elevated level of cortisol. For some people, this leads to another level of food cravings, particularly for carbohydrates and sweets. As well, constant elevations of cortisol cause your body to destroy serotonin, thereby destroying dopamine, which is the neurotransmitter that allows you to feel good. Not only does this move more people into depressed moods, it also sets up the second level of food cravings; the cravings for serotonin-producing foods. Serotonin-producing foods are carbohydrates and sweets. So if you’re wondering why you snacked on cookies in the afternoon, it could have something to do with that coffee you drank with breakfast. Usually the more caffeine consumed, the more your body urges you to eat.
About one third of human beings have one or more of the above listed mechanisms as part of our genetics and lifestyle. And like anything, repeated exposure for those who are more susceptible means it is hard to lose any belly fat created by these mechanisms. The best advice is to enjoy your cup or two of caffeine daily and get your healthy eating patterns in place. If after that you still aren’t reaching your goals, then perhaps it’s time to remove the caffeine and see if you are one of the more sensitive beings to caffeine (like me).