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Coffee Compound GCA May Curb Obesity, But Let’s Not Get Carried Away, Researchers Say

coffee and obesity study

Yongjie Ma of UGA’s Pharmacy department was the lead author of the study. Photo courtesy of UGA.

Chlorogenic acid (CGA), a chemical compound prevalent in coffee, may help prevent some of the damaging effects of obesity, according to a study recently published by University of Georgia Pharmacy researchers. The specific effects are increased insulin resistance and the accumulation of fat in the liver.

“Previous studies have shown that coffee consumption may lower the risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Yongjie Ma, lead author of the paper, published in Pharmaceutical Research. “Our study expands on this research by looking at the benefits associated with this specific compound, which is found in great abundance in coffee, but also in other fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, tomatoes and blueberries.”

(related: Cervical Cancer Kills in Coffee Communities, but U.S. Roasters Can Help)

For the study, researchers fed a group of mice a high-fat diet for 15 weeks, finding that regular injections of GCA prevented weight gain, while also helping maintain normal blood sugar levels and reducing fat absorption to the liver. Part of GCA’s success in curbing weight gain could be attributed to its antioxidant qualities that reduce inflammation. Says Ma, “A lot of evidence suggests that obesity-related diseases are caused by chronic inflammation, so if we can control that, we can hopefully offset some of the negative effects of excessive weight gain.”

CGA was the chemical compound at the heart of the green coffee weight loss study made famous by television personality Dr. Oz. That study has since been proven bogus, with the researchers behind it fined heavily by the FTC. The UGA researchers, meanwhile, took care to note that the amount of CGA injected to the mice far exceeds what might be absorbed naturally by human consumption of coffee or other foods with high GCA content. In other words, they are not saying people with high-fat and high-calorie diets should bypass exercise and go chug coffee.

“We’re not suggesting that people start drinking a lot of coffee to protect themselves from an unhealthy lifestyle,” Ma says. “But we do think that we might be able to create a useful therapeutic using CGA that will help those at risk for obesity-related disease.”

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