There's no shortage of scientific research pointing to exercise being good for you, but if you're just trying to lose weight you probably want all the help you can get. Now, research suggests that caffeine activates the same fat-busting genes as an hour's exercise. Somebody, pass the espresso.
A team of researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, were interested in the genetic activity in the body during exercise. By taking biopsies from the legs of participants, they were able to work out that several genes associated with metabolising fat are activated by exercise—but only after an hour or so. That means that your body breaks down fat more effectively after an hour's exercise.
But what they also found was that the exact same genes are activated by large doses of caffeine, a finding they report in Cell Metabolism. In fact, the caffeine causes the body to release calcium, which tricks it into thinking that muscles are being contracted—hence the effect.
Sadly, the doses of caffeine required to achieve the same effect as an hour's exercise are... intimidating to say the least. "[You] would need to consume a caffeine equivalent of about 50 cups [of coffee] per day, almost close to a lethal dose", explains Juleen Zierath, one of the researchers, to Nature. Maybe exercise is easier after all. [Cell metabolism via New Scientist; Image: Phil Monger]