I've been writing about the science of coffee off and on for the past few years. For centuries, people thought that coffee was a health hazard under the popular if misguided logic that anything that makes you feel so good must also be bad for you.
It turns out, though, that coffee reduces your risk of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's, and heart disease, and increases your short-term focus and endurance while simultaneously increasing your life span.
In short, coffee is a superfood. However, we really didn't know exactly how super until this week, when researchers at the University of Nottingham conducted a series of tests to discover how coffee reacts and affects body fat.
Quick background. Your body has two kinds of fat: 1) white adipose tissue (WAT) and 2) brown adipose tissue (BAT).
WAT stores energy so you can survive a famine. Your body can store huge amounts of WAT, which is what makes people (literally) look fat.
BAT moderates your body chemistry to keep you healthy. It improves your body's ability to handle blood sugar, increases bone health and density, helps build lead muscle mass, increases longevity, and helps you burn WAT more efficiently.
The problems with BAT are 1) adult humans don't have much of it (babies have a lot) and 2) BAT only works when it's activated. Up until recently, the only known ways to activate BAT are regular exercise and (weirdly) periodically exposing yourself to cold temperatures.
Now, according to groundbreaking research conducted at the University of Nottingham, drinking coffee (but not water) stimulates BAT. To quote the study:
Caffeine consumption has been associated with loss of body weight and increased energy expenditure ... Drinking coffee (but not water) stimulated the temperature of the supraclavicular region, which co-locates to the main region of BAT in adult humans, and is indicative of thermogenesis. These results demonstrate that caffeine can promote BAT function at thermoneutrality and may have the potential to be used therapeutically in adult humans.
In other words, coffee heats up your BAT, which causes your body to more efficiently convert WAT into energy. Or put even more simply: Coffee literally burns fat.
It need hardly be said that to get health benefits from coffee you've got to drink it without the sugar, creamer, syrup, and flavorings that people use to cover up the supposedly "bitter" taste of coffee. Some Starbucks preparations have as much fat and sugar as a bacon-and-cheese burger.
So I'll let you in on a health secret: When prepared correctly (freshly roasted, freshly ground, drip-brewed in Pyrex), coffee is slightly sweet and not in the least bitter. Plus, when you don't ruin coffee by adding extraneous garbage, you can taste all the overtones that make each variety of coffee subtly different.
Even as I write this, I'm drinking coffee that I prepared correctly. I guarantee you, it's quite smooth and not at all bitter. This particular variety (it's from Sumatra) has a tinge of a chocolate flavor to it.
So, here's to the good news!