Caffeine And Weight Loss: What We Know Now

by Robert L. Richard, MD, FACS
The Center for Weight Management

For years we have told our patients to avoid caffeine, yet if you happened to follow me in to work you would notice a daily stop at Starbucks. In fact at the 3‐4 Starbucks locations around Duluth, many of the baristas know me by name and prepare my drinks as soon as they see me walk in or drive up. Pretty sad, but true.

So what is the truth about caffeine? There is evidence that frequent consumption of caffeine throughout the day can lead to weight gain. This is thought to be due to the effects that caffeine has on cravings for food.

Caffeine consumption is linked to increased levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. This in turn tells your body to get more energy, which can lead to stress or emotional eating and the desire for comfort foods. Caffeine has even been found to lower blood sugar, which increases your appetite and craving for high calorie foods.

So the bad news about caffeine is that frequent consumption will lead to snacking on carbs and weight gain.

That’s why the best selling foods at coffee houses are the breads, muffins and cookies. Weight gain also comes from drinking high calorie coffee drinks, such as lattes with whole or 2% milk, sugar syrups for flavor and topped with whipped cream; or even coffee with lots of cream and sugar.

There is also contrary evidence that caffeine can cause weight loss.

Caffeine is a stimulant and that increase of cortisol level will also cause an increase in heart rate and metabolic rate for a short period of time (3‐4 hours after consumption). This increase in metabolic rate can cause short‐term weight loss, however, it has not produced long‐term weight loss in clinical trials.

Caffeine has other benefits; its consumption does increase alertness and productivity, and can also improve sprint and endurance in athletes.

Moderate coffee drinking (1‐3 cups (8 oz.) per day), has been shown to lower the overall risk of cancer, the risk of cardiovascular disease, and the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
If you’re getting a mixed picture here you are right. Caffeine has multiple effects on the body, too many to come to a real conclusion about its real effect on weight.

The bottom line is, if you are having trouble with snacking and carb cravings stop the caffeinated beverage and you may do better. If you have a cup of coffee in the morning to start your day and you are avoiding the muffins, enjoy.

How GMC Can Help

When dieting and exercise aren't enough, the Center for Weight Management offers a range of options to help you lose weight and improve your health. Visit to learn more, and to learn about our summer promotion and fast track options.


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