Coffee Intake Tied to Weight, Insulin Problems

Consider this before you go on an afternoon java run: Overdoing it with the coffee may promote weight gain, according to a new research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

For the animal study, Australian researchers divided mice into three groups. The first ate a normal diet, the second a high-fat diet, and the third a high-fat diet that contained a large amount of chlorogenic acid (CGA), a type of antioxidant found in coffee. Over the span of 12 weeks, the critters that ate the high-fat diet with CGA stored more fat and experienced increased glucose sensitivity and insulin resistance, precursors to type 2 diabetes, compared to the mice who ate a high-fat diet without the coffee compound. The results came as a surprise to researchers.

“Our hypothesis was that the coffee compound would reduce weight gain and improve insulin sensitivity,” says study co-author Kevin D. Croft, PhD, of The University of Western Australia School of Medicine and Pharmacology. ”Clearly this is not the case.”

Don’t break things off with Joe just yet, though. The mice in the study consumed doses of CGA equivalent to drinking five or six cups of coffee per day, says Croft. Previous research has shown that consuming CGA in moderation can reduce blood pressure, increase insulin resistance, and—here’s the kicker—even prevent weight gain. While researchers are unsure why the opposite is true at high doses, they believe that excessive CGA intake may hinder the body’s ability to process and use fat.

To reap coffee’s health benefits without increasing your poundage, limit yourself to three or four cups of coffee a day, says Croft. Keep in mind, though, that a cup is eight ounces. Suck down a Trenta from Starbucks, and you’ve already hit your max for the day.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Pregnant? Put Down the Coffee

If you have a bun in the oven, you might want to rethink your daily coffee habit: New research shows that drinking too much caffeine while you’re pregnant could result in a lower birth weight for your baby.

Researchers from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden asked 59,000 pregnant women to complete questionnaires about their health, lifestyle, and diet habits at various stages throughout their pregnancy. Then, during the 22nd week of their pregnancy, they completed a food frequency questionnaire—including how much caffeine they consumed per day. Researchers analyzed the results, as well as data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, which contains each baby’s birth weight. What they found: More than 10 percent of participants consumed an excess of 200 mg of caffeine per day (about what you’d get from drinking two cups of coffee). These women were 20 to 60 percent more likely to have a baby who was small for gestational age (SGA). As newborns, SGA babies have trouble staying warm. They’re also more likely to have lower neurodevelopment scores throughout their childhood and to remain small as adults, says Verena Sengpiel, MD, PhD, one of the study authors.

It’s important to note that, while a low birth weight was associated with caffeine intake, that doesn’t prove causation. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, FACOG, an OBGYN and clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine, recommends setting up a pre-pregnancy consultation with your OBGYN if you plan on becoming pregnant. That way, you can map out what kind of new health habits (including reduced caffeine consumption) you may need to establish. If you do decide to cut back on caffeine, don’t go cold turkey. Wean yourself off of it gradually so that you don’t experience withdrawal headaches, suggests Minkin.

One trick to try: Water down your regular cup of joe by pouring yourself a cup of half regular coffee, half decaf.

Still need an energy boost (sans java)? Try these tips and strategies.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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There’s HOW Much Sugar in That Coffee?

Although a judge overruled the ban on large, sugary beverages that was supposed to go into effect in New York City today, the initiative still serves as a good wake-up call about just how much sugar you’re chugging each morning.

The regulation applies to any food service establishment regulated by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, including restaurants, food carts, delis, movie theaters, and stadiums. To prepare its customers, Dunkin’ Donuts has been passing out fliers explaining new policy changes designed to help the chain comply with the initiative.

If the proposed regulation had gone into effect this morning as planned, Dunkin’ customers would have had to add their own sugar and “flavor swirls” to large and extra-large hot drinks, as well as medium and large iced drinks. Translation: While you may not realize it, those coffee beverages typically come loaded with sugar—sometimes as much as 61 grams per drink, which puts them into the category of “sugary beverages with more than 25 calories per eight ounces” (anything that falls into that group would be sold in portions of 16 ounces or less, according to the proposal). Dunkin’ is by no means the only coffee shop guilty of overdoing it with the sweet stuff, though. A grande iced coffee at Starbucks contains 20 grams of sugar, a medium hot latte at Caribou Coffee contains 19 grams of sugar, and a medium premium roast iced coffee at McDonald’s has 30 grams of sugar.

The NYC DHMH estimates that if people cut back their sugary drink intake to one 16-ounce beverage every two weeks, the city’s population would collectively lose 2.3 million pounds over the course of a year.

Some experts doubt the ban will work since people can get around the restrictions fairly easily—they could just buy two 16-ounce sugary drinks, for example, says Brian Wansink, PhD, and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

But others say that having to add sweetener to your own coffee will at least make consumers more aware of their sugar intake. “It’s really the first step to reduce sugar consumption,” says Lu Qi, MD, PhD, and assistant professor of genetic and nutritional epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

TELL US: Do you have a sugary coffee habit? Does the proposed ban make you rethink your java routine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Does Coffee Really Make You Blind?

Here’s a shocking stat for coffee drinkers: Researchers studied close to 80,000 women and 40,000 men over a 20-year-period and found that those who drank three or more cups of Joe a day had a 66 percent greater chance of developing exfoliation glaucoma—a condition in which a dandruff-like powder forms in your eye, increases pressure in your eyeball, damages the optic nerve, and eventually causes blindness.

But don’t worry about skipping your daily trips to Starbucks just yet, says Andrew Iwach, M.D., executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco, and a clinical correspondent with the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The study authors suspect that caffeinated coffee may raise levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which damages blood vessels and other eye structures. The truth of the matter: As the researchers state themselves, the study is observational; they didn’t assign some people to drink coffee and some to lay off. Therefore, it can’t prove coffee causes glaucoma—only that there might be a link between the two, says Iwach. (Heard those other myths about your favorite a.m. staple? Debunk them in The Truth About Coffee.)

Though the connection may be real, doctors are a long way from listing java as a risk factor for blindness. “There are a whole list of glaucoma risk factors that we look for when a patient comes in for an exam, and eventually this might be on that list,” Iwach says.

But for now, go ahead and order your venti Americano, and focus on factors that are proven to boost your odds for blindness: smoking, being hit in the eye, a family history of glaucoma, or taking corticosteroids, which are used to treat medical conditions like asthma, rashes, and tendon or joint problems.

Then take a moment to schedule a complete eye exam with an ophthalmologist. Begin with one in your 20s, even if you don’t think you have any risk factors. Your doc can assess your risk and check for physical signs of the disease, which often appear long before symptoms, says Iwach.

photo: Eyecandy Images/Thinkstock

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