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Project of the Month: Relationship between caffeine and brown fat metabolism

The first study in humans to show that something like a cup of coffee can have a direct effect on our brown fat functions has been carried out with the partial help of the EU. CASCADE Fellow Dr Ksenija Velickovic was a member of the team whose findings could have major implications in the light of the increasing levels of obesity. Brown fat metabolism could, potentially, be key to finding a solution to the growing diabetes epidemic.

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Researchers combined both in vitro and in vivo models to examine whether caffeine could stimulate brown fat cells. For this purpose, they used mouse and human stem cells, which can generate both white and brown fat cells. They found that caffeine-treated cells increased their rate of metabolism and acquired characteristics of brown fat cells. The researchers then moved on to a human study by recruiting volunteers who drank either coffee or water, and measured changes in temperature of brown fat. Thus, with different models they have provided new evidence that caffeine and a coffee beverage can promote brown fat function. The next step is to examine further which ingredients in coffee are responsible for brown fat activation. Once they have confirmed this, the team will investigate whether caffeine could have a beneficial effect on other metabolic disorders, diabetes and hypertension in particular. “This is the first study in humans to show that one of the most popular drinks in the world can have a direct effect on brown fat function and could even help fight obesity. Our results suggest that apart from cold as the main physiological stimulus, brown fat can burn calories due to changes in nutrient composition. This could lead to reduced white fat in the body, which is associated with detrimental health effects. The potential implications of our results could impact on the pharmaceutical industry, who are looking for novel and validated models to treat obesity and related disorders.” Dr Ksenija Velickovic, EU-CASCADE Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Medicine, Nottingham, United Kingdom If you are interested in having your project featured in ‘Project of the Month’ in an upcoming issue, please send us an email to and tell us why!


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