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Healthgrades for ProfessionalsCan Coffee Cause Weight Gain? Answers Explained

Understanding the impact of coffee on weight: examining the roles of additives, caffeine metabolism, and lifestyle factors.

Coffee, a widely consumed beverage, has a complex relationship with weight management. Although plain coffee has negligible calories and may support weight maintenance or loss, additives and caffeine’s effects on sleep and appetite can contribute to weight gain. This article provides consumers and physicians with the evidence surrounding coffee’s impact on body weight, highlighting practical considerations for clinical practice.

Key Points:

  • Impact of Plain Coffee vs. Additives:
    • Plain black coffee contains nearly zero calories and is unlikely to cause weight gain.
    • Additives such as creamer, sugar, and flavorings can increase the caloric content, potentially leading to weight gain if it results in exceeding daily calorie needs.
  • Mixed Evidence on Coffee and Weight:
    • Some studies suggest plain coffee may support weight maintenance or loss.
    • A 2019 review found higher coffee intake linked to lower BMI and waist circumference, especially in men.
  • Coffee Additives and Weight Gain:
    • A 2023 review indicated that adding a teaspoon of sugar to coffee led to weight gain.
    • No significant link was found between adding cream or coffee whitener and weight gain.
  • Caffeine’s Effect on Sleep and Weight:
    • Excessive caffeine can disrupt sleep, leading to weight gain due to:
      • Decreased leptin levels, increasing hunger.
      • Increased consumption of high-fat and carbohydrate foods.
      • Extended waking hours, providing more time to eat.
  • Caffeine’s Effect on Appetite:
    • Evidence on caffeine’s impact on appetite is mixed; timing of consumption may influence appetite changes.
    • A 2017 study found caffeine intake shortly before eating reduced food intake, but had little effect if consumed earlier.
  • Caffeine and Metabolism:
    • Caffeine may enhance metabolic health by lowering LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and insulin resistance, though more research is needed.
    • It can increase thermogenesis, promoting calorie burn and potentially aiding weight loss.
  • Caffeine as a Workout Supplement:
    • Caffeine can improve exercise performance, enhancing muscle endurance, reducing fatigue, and increasing strength, which may support weight loss.
    • Many studies use higher caffeine doses than typically found in coffee.
  • Balancing Coffee Intake and Weight Management:
    • Recommendations for maintaining a moderate weight while consuming coffee include:
      • Drinking black coffee.
      • Limiting added sugars and using low-fat milk instead of creamer.
      • Avoiding highly processed artificial flavorings.
      • Using low-calorie sweeteners and natural flavorings like vanilla extract or cinnamon.
  • FDA Caffeine Intake Guidelines:
    • The FDA recommends adults limit daily caffeine intake to 400 milligrams (about four 8-ounce cups of coffee).

Up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s roughly the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two “energy shot” drinks. (Mayo Clinic)

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