Newsletter 6 :: 05/02/2012
Coffee Promotes Cortisol Production and Weight Gain
Wednesday Janurary 18th, 2012 by: Celeste. M. Smucker, PhD
Conventional wisdom about weight loss suggests
coffee may be a good addition to a diet plan since it has minimal calories and
no fat. While this seems logical, a more holistic view evaluates coffee from
the perspective of its influence on the body's ability to metabolize the other
food we eat. Recent studies suggest that despite its low calorie count, coffee
may actually promote weight gain as well as type 2 diabetes by stimulating
cortisol production and insulin resistance.
One of the roles of cortisol, known as the stress
hormone, is to help facilitate the fight or flight mechanism designed to save
us from physical threat. When the body is stressed, cortisol's job is to up
blood pressure and speed carbohydrate and fat metabolism, increasing the amount
of blood sugar in the system to feed muscles and cells so they can function
more effectively when stressed. Cortisol also promotes the release of insulin
necessary to facilitate movement of glucose into the cells.
This cortisol-induced demand for blood sugar causes us to feel hungry,
encouraging us to eat more despite our best intentions. Of course this
situation is exacerbated if we drink more coffee when we are also under stress.
If our response to the increased cortisol were physical, like running away from
a perceived threat or choosing instead to fight, we might burn off the extra
fuel. However, in today's world since most stress is mental or emotional and
rarely due to actual physical threat, weight gain is a likely result. In
addition, faced with consistently elevated insulin levels, our cells will tend
to become resistant to its effect making them less able to utilize our now
elevated levels of blood sugar. This insulin resistance condition is often
followed by a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.
Regular coffee drinking may
increase tolerance to cortisol response
While caffeine prompts cortisol production, a 2005
study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that regular
coffee drinking increases our tolerance, blunting this effect somewhat.
Subjects in this study who were given caffeine after a five-day fast showed
cortisol spikes in the morning; an effect which diminished after several days
of regular exposure. However, researchers also found that when subjects were
exposed to caffeine continuously throughout the day, cortisol levels began to
rise again in the afternoon. Further results also showed that study
participants prone to high blood pressure reacted more strongly to the caffeine
than did others and produced more cortisol.
This means for people who sip coffee throughout the day, there is a good chance
their body will respond by eventually producing more cortisol encouraging
weight gain and/or the development of type 2 diabetes, especially those who are
hypertensive. On the other hand, for those who limit their intake of coffee to
one or two cups first thing in the morning their cortisol response may be less
Cortisol promotes fat
According to Shawn Talbott, PhD, author of The Cortisol Connection,
another one of cortisol's roles is to encourage our bodies to store fat; a
process that is helped along by higher levels of insulin. Unfortunately, this
particular fat often gets located in the abdominal area causing a condition
that may be associated not only with diabetes but also with heart disease, high
cholesterol and hypertension.
For all of these reasons, in spite of its minimal calories, drinking coffee may
not be a good.
5 Coffee Alternatives
Can't make it through the morning without your daily java? Try brewing
some green tea, which has slightly less caffeine than a cup of Joe but enough
to give you a boost without any of the coffee jitters. The refreshing drink is
also packed with health benefits, says Nadine Taylor, registered dietitian and
author of Green Tea: The Natural Secret to a Healthier Life. "Catechins
are powerful antioxidants and potent disease fighters that are found primarily
in green tea," she says.
Nuts, which are high in protein and fiber, make a healthy afternoon snack,
but they're also nourishing whipped into a smoothie. According to certified
nutritionist Angela Pifer, smoothies made using ingredients like cashew milk, protein powder,
and nut butter help elevate your blood sugar levels. "A 3 p.m. slump is not
innate to us," Pifer says. "Since food gives us energy, it's more of a problem
with our blood sugar dropping
Even if you didn't like licorice candy as a child, you'll appreciate the
benefits of sweet, spicy licorice tea. The bold-tasting brew is actually
caffeine-free, but supports overburdened adrenal glands, which are organs that
respond to stress. "Licorice is an adrenal tonic and increases energy. It adds
a pleasant taste to tea blends
and can also be taken in tincture form," explain Dr. Linda B. White and Steven
Foster, authors of The Herbal
Siberian Ginseng Tea
Siberian ginseng tea gets its kick from the slightly bitter ginseng
root, but if you can't down the brew on its own, sweeten it with a dollop of
honey. The herbal drink is supposed to stimulate your concentration, according
to White and Foster. "This favorite, tried-and-true fatigue-buster is safe for
long-term use in most people.
Reishi Mushroom Tea
You've devoured mushrooms enfolded in tasty omelets or sprinkled atop
your favorite pastas, but if you're looking for a unique coffee alternative,
try mushrooms in the form of tea. A staple in traditional Chinese medicine, the soft, flat reishi mushroom makes
for one invigorating (and healthy) libation. White and Foster recommend
combining 1/3 ounce of chopped or powdered reishi mushroom with 3 cups of
water, then bringing the tea to a boil and simmering for 30 minutes before
drinking in doses.
***Reishy Mushroom, Siberian Ginseng, and Licorice Root can all be taken as a tincutre as well.