This Holiday Season, Caffeine Could Offset Your Weight Gain Thanks to Mate Tea, One Study Says

Published on December 25, 2019

It’s officially the holiday season and it’s also the time where we all go up a few clothing sizes, admittingly. However, don’t get your knickers in a knot. A new study in rats suggests that caffeine may offset some of the negative effects of an obesogenic diet by reducing the storage of lipds in fat cells and limiting weight gain and the production of triglycerides.

The study comes out of the University of Illinois, where scientists have been toying with the idea that caffeine, cholesterol production, and weight all have something in common.

So what did we learn from the three scientists behind the four-week study?

Rats that consumed the caffeine extracted from mate tea gained 16% less weight and accumulated 22% less body fat than rats that consumed decaffeinated mate tea. These effects, according to the results, were similar with synthetic caffeine and that extracted from coffee.

For those unfamiliar, “mate tea” is an herbal beverage rich in phytochemicals, flavonoids and amino acids that’s consumed as a stimulant by people in southeastern Latin American countries. The study explained that the amount of caffeine per serving in mate tea ranges from 65-130 milligrams, compared with 30-300 milligrams of caffeine in a cup of brewed coffee. Yikes!

Lasting for a period of four weeks, the study closely monitored rats eating a diet that contained 40% fat, 45% carbohydrate, and 15% protein. Of course, as part of the control group, the rats also ingested one of the forms of caffeine in an amount equivalent to what a human would drink in four cups of coffee daily.

At the conclusion of the four-weeks, the percentage of lean body mass in the various groups of rats “differed significantly.” According to the study, the rats ingested caffeine from mate tea, coffee or synthetic sources accumulated less body fat than rats in other groups.

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But what do the study’s three leading scientists have to say?

Considering the findings, mate tea and caffeine can be considered anti-obesity agents,” said Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia, a co-author of the study and director of the division of nutritional sciences at the U. of I. “The results of this research could be scaled to humans to understand the roles of mate tea and caffeine as potential strategies to prevent overweight and obesity, as well as the subsequent metabolic disorders associated with these conditions.”

To determine the mechanism of action, the three scientists performed cell culture studies in which they exposed adipose cells from mice to synthetic caffeine or the coffee or mate caffeine extracts. They found that regardless of its source, caffeine decreased the accumulation of lipids in adipose cells by 20%-41%.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Functional Foods, which only adds to the growing pile of research suggesting that mate tea could actually help fight obesity along with a number of other health benefits.

Then-graduate student Fatima J. Zapata was the lead author of the study, which was co-written by graduate student Miguel Rebollo-Hernanz, animal sciences professor Jan E. Novakofski and nutritional sciences professor Manabu T. Nakamura.

The work was funded by the U. of I. Division of Nutritional Sciences.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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