Ask FGG: Does coffee store fat?
"I recently heard that coffee stores fat. Please say it isn't so! I'm not ready to surrender my morning latte!"
We consulted registered dietitian Joanne Larsen of Ask the Dietitian for the straight scoop on the link between java and fat. "Plain coffee does nothing to store fat," she says. "What causes people to store fat is eating more calories during a meal or snack than they need in the next 4 - 6 hours." If you're worried about fat over-staying its welcome, Larsen emphasizes the tried-and-true "eat less, move more" standard and suggests taking a walk after meals.
We also asked Ms. Larsen to address claims that stress causes us to store fat around the midsection - and coffee's potential to increase stress. "Stress doesn't cause us to store fat around our midsection. Eating more calories than we need plus a lack of exercise to burn those extra calories causes us to store fat from our neck to feet," she says.
However, Larsen adds, some people overeat in response to stress because eating - especially carbs - brings us comfort. "When we eat, blood pools around our intestines and moves away from our brain, often making us sleepy or more relaxed," says Larsen. "Exercise is a good stress reliever. Go for a walk instead of eating when stressed." (Editors' note: We'd like to add sex to that list, too!) Larsen points out that stress does increase cortisol levels in our bodies, which is related to inflammation in ways scientists are still trying to discern. And while some research has linked caffeine intake and inflammation, the jury's still out on this issue.
So, can we keep our coffee? All signs point to yes--in moderation. (Editors' note: Woo hoo!) "Coffee doesn't exacerbate stress. Caffeine causes our heart to pump harder and our kidneys to filter out more fluid," she says. "However, people who drink decaffeinated beverages have no less abdominal fat than people who drink caffeinated beverages; otherwise, decaf would be the new miracle diet food."