Will Coffee Make You Fat? - Medico Tribune

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Monday, September 28, 2020

Will Coffee Make You Fat?

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 Maybe not but I'm pretty sure it helped make me fat and kind of anxious. So is coffee bad for you and how much should you drink?


In May 2017 a year 16-year-old Californian had a large mountain dew a café latte and chugged an energy drink within 40 minutes. He then collapsed and died from  a caffeine induced cardiac event the total amount of caffeine. He had  only 400 milligrams, the equivalent of four cups of coffee.

On the other hand, a 2008 study on 817 Finnish adults found that more coffee people drank the longer they lived with those drinking as much as 7 cups of coffee a day. Living the longest the 16-year-old's case is an incredibly rare one but clearly caffeine can have different effects on different people.

But why it's hard to predict how each person will react their own personalized cup of coffee. Because everyone metabolizes caffeine differently and there is ton's of other compounds in coffee that change depending on everything from how the coffee is grown and processed to how you even prepare each cup of coffee.


For example, it's been found that French press coffee raises cholesterol whereas filtered coffee does not. Personally I'm always more jittery with cheaper coffees and I usually feel better with organic coffees. The difference is probably that non-organic coffees are doused with all kind of pesticides I'm also prone to feeling hot nauseous and jittery with black coffee but feel fine with coffees with milk in it or lattes.

I used to get off of coffee I ended up being coffee and caffeine free for a little over a month, and I was a lot better for it. The changes were subtle and came on slowly I usually clench my jaw when I'm feeling tense which is why my masseter muscle is so large. Sometimes, I clench it so hard at night that I wake up with headaches and a lot of tension in the side of my face. I'm also less anxious throughout the day and I have more stable focus without coffee. The most surprising to me quitting coffee drastically reduced my appetite when I was drinking three cups of coffee a day.


It was like the only way to get full was to physically stretch. My stomach with a huge mass of food, once I cut out coffee, it was like my station hormones actually worked again and I could eat like a regular human.


But caffeine is a slippery slope I ended up having a couple coffee dates with friends and by July I was once again drinking three double shot lattes. Each morning it took about 10 days to notice that I was getting a little bit hungrier. I was in general a little more anxious and my focus throughout the day was less stable the official stance is that. We should keep our caffeine intake under 400 milligrams. Four cups of coffee worth a day but research has found that depending on who you are.


It can take anywhere from 2.3 hours to 9.9 hours to metabolize half of your caffeine does. Other research ha found that if you're a slow metabolized of caffeine, high caffeine consumption can increase your heart disease risk. But  if you are a quick metabiolizer of caffeine then it can even lower your heart disease risk.

In fact, you may even enjoy the flavor of coffee more or less depending on how quickly you can metabolize caffeine. This study found that people who metabolize caffeine  more slowly actually perceive it as more bitter. Now you might think nice well if I'm a fast metabolizer of caffeine I'll get the benefits from coffee rather than the detriments a damn fine cup of coffee.

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However, my DNA report shows that I actually metabolize caffeine faster than average, yet I seem to still have these issues with coffee, hot coffee. So first, let's take a look at caffeine and hunger caffeine activates the stress axis and raises the stress hormone cortisol and cortisol has been found to increase appetite and while another study didn't find that caffeine directly increases appetite. 


It  did find that caffeine makes it harder for cortisol levels to fall in fact Stephen Chernisky author of the book Caffeine Blues writes that people who consume more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day may have elevated serum cholesterol for 18 hours a day. Also, caffeine may take it to where we perceive and physiologically react to stressful things as if they're even harder for cortisol levels to fall.


The fact is that you and I are sitting here today because this will be your last week of this company. A 1974 study found that in a group of people told that they were going to be fired from their job stress-related noradrenaline their physiological response to stress was greater thanks to the caffeine. These caffeine drinkers were probably feeling specifically more anxious about losing their job considering noradrenaline provokes anxiety.


Is this enough to say that caffeine was making me fat and hungry? Well, I suppose not but higher stress levels have been linked to higher abdominal fat and there's evidence that people with more body fat secrete more of the stress hormone cortisol and again cortisol raises appetite making for a vicious cycle and it has been found that increased anxiety increases people's appetite and the food actually relieves the anxiety.


So, let's take a look at coffee and caffeine's relationship to anxiety I get from drinking coffee. Research has been done showing coffee consumption has people with bruxism clench their jaw more. As I explained earlier this is the case for me too. It happens to clench my jaw when I'm anxious or tense and it seems that I'm generally more anxious throughout the day.


When I'm regularly drinking coffee there's multiple papers talking about the anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine and there have been cases in the past of normal healthy people suffering from panic attacks from just 500 milligrams of caffeine about 5cups of coffee.


 A paper looking at people with panic disorder found that 71 of the patients said that drinking caffeine felt similar to the experience of having a panic attack. But to lesser degree of course several papers describe a phenomenon called caffeinism which is essentially chronic anxiety from drinking too much caffeine.


As early as 1978 it was written that there is no reliable way to tell the difference between someone who actually has an anxiety disorder and someone who is simply sensitive to caffeine and is drinking too much of it. In fact in a study looking at six different cases of people with an anxiety disorder to the degree that they were taking medication for their anxiety all six of them had massive improvements in their anxiety, after quitting caffeine and five of the six no longer needed any anxiety medication.


 After stopping the caffeine, actually one of the people after going caffeine free and getting rid of his anxiety accidentally had caffeinated coffee one day and then experienced anxiety symptoms for the next two weeks. Many papers find that more caffeine leads to more anxiety in normal people and of course people with anxiety disorders are much more sensitive to caffeine.


 So, what if caffeine is inducing at least some small subtle amount of anxiety in everyone and you just notice it more or less depending on how sensitive you are to caffeine, how easy is it to tell? If you're just having a bad day or if you've had a little bit too much coffee, here's the thing about caffeine clearly it's changing something in the brain.


 If the caffeine just made you feel good and focused for a little while and then completely disappeared from your system. After a couple hours then we wouldn't have withdrawal effects if we missed our morning cup of coffee but we do caffeine works by blocking the action of the chemical adenosine in our brains. When adenosine normally acts on an adenosine receptor we feel sleepy and part of the reason caffeine has its effects is because caffeine blocks this sleepy adenosine receptor.


 I think most people have heard about the cool neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin but people don't talk about adenosine very often adenosine receptors are in almost all organs and tissues and they're found throughout the brain and spinal cord. Adenosine has a lot of complicated functions research has found adenosine to have anti-inflammatory properties. Adenosine regulates sleep and it lessens the excitability of brain cells meaning it calms you down and it also has effects on blood vessels.


 In fact research has found that when you give people caffeine blood flow in the brain is reduced research has also found that adenosine has anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. You don't have to remember all that but my point for now is just that the adenosine system is very intricate and nuanced. We can't just say oh well adenosine is the sleepy chemical and I  don't want to be sleepy, so i'll drink plenty of caffeine and all my problems will be solved with no side effects.

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 When you constantly block adenosine receptors in the brain the brain creates more receptors to make balance in response to the fact that the receptors are receiving abnormally low stimulation to get more specific for a moment. There are several types of adenosine receptors but the main ones are a1 and a2a and caffeine works by blocking both of these. Constantly blocking adenosine receptors means more adenosine receptors will be created so what happens when you have more adenosine receptors making your brain more sensitive to adenosine.


 Well consider this anxiety and depression often appear together and research has found that if you expose rodents to chronic stress. This chronic stress creates more adenosine a2a receptors in the rodents brain and this increase in a2a receptors is accompanied by an increase in depression-like behavior. Another way you can increase a2a adenosine receptors is by drinking caffeine the brain changes. You see in the brain when you constantly drink caffeine are similar to the brain changes you see when constantly exposed to stress so sure caffeine may actually have an anti-depressive effect temporarily.


Because it blocks his a2a receptors as you know caffeine improves your mood but this research suggests that the brain is changed in a way that when the caffeine starts to wear off your overall baseline mood is worse compared to when you didn't have a caffeine habit. Another thing is that activating a1 receptors has anti-depressant effects in fact oddly enough sleep deprivation seems to have an antidepressant-like effect on people the longer you stay awake the more adenosine builds up and this adenosine acts on a1 receptors and gives an antidepressant effect.

But remember caffeine blocks these a1 receptors this kind of made sense to me when I was drinking coffee I did notice that my mood was just a little bit more variable I would feel especially positive and confident right after I had my coffee. But as the caffeine started to wear off I noticed I was a little more unsure of myself and was a little bit more pessimistic about things other than adenosine receptors.


Caffeine also causes physical changes to several other brain receptors very important to mood like adrenaline receptors, gaba receptors and serotonin receptors. Adrenaline is part of the stressful fight or flight response serotonin is an important neurotransmitter for positive mood and gaba is an inhibitory neurotransmitter meaning it helps you relax. A lot of research has been done on the importance of gaba in anxiety disorders. In fact as this 2012 review explains a deficit of gaba signaling in the brain is a commonality between anxiety disorders and major depression and caffeine disrupts the normal metabolism of gaba.


 Research has found that putting caffeine in mice's drinking water decreases the amount of gaba in the mice's brains. So, does all this prove that the anxiety you experience in your life is mostly due to caffeine. Well, no but at least for me specifically I don't need to read all these research papers to understand that caffeine enhances at least a little bit my baseline level of anxiousness at the start of the article.


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I explained that there are many individual differences between people and how they process caffeine. My point with this is to say that if you enjoy caffeine and you don't consider yourself an anxious person and you are totally content with how you feel then you probably don't have to go out of your way to change your morning routine. Some of you might be wondering why tea makes you feel better than coffee. It might be because of a compound called l-theanine which is found in tea and not coffee.


This study found that taking 250 milligrams of l-theanine with 150 milligrams of caffeine led to people having better reaction times. They had less headaches, felt less fatigued and felt more alert than just taking caffeine alone. In fact l-theanine is a popular supplement. Specifically for that reason it's taken to reduce coffee jitters one last thing maybe you want to try quitting coffee but you want to live forever like those seven cup a day Finnish people.


But, was coffee really making them live longer or is it simply that people with super robust bodies and livers who can happily process cup after cup of coffee without any ill effects are just naturally more robust and therefore live longer after all the reason people with liver disease. For example don't drink so much caffeine is probably because their weakened livers have a really hard time processing it.

So, it's probably not the case that drinking a bunch of coffee makes people live longer but that the people that can drink a bunch of coffee live longer. So, if you're looking for some advice try drinking a couple different quality coffees until you find the one that makes you feel the best and then if you're not totally satisfied with how you feel you could pair it with l-theanine. If you're not having any luck with that then you could at least try seeing how you feel without coffee for a couple weeks.


 Since, blocking adenosine receptors has tons of downstream effects you might notice some changes that don't seem like they would be caused by coffee. But make sure you pay attention honestly it took me two cycles of quitting coffee for a month and then having less appetite and then starting coffee again and then having more appetite to finally confirm for myself that yes I was gaining weight from my coffee habit. The changes you feel will probably come on very slow and you also have to pay attention to distinguish them from the withdrawal effects.



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